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03 May 16:47

50 Easy Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

by Matt Brennan

When you’re stuck, how do you beat writer’s block?

When you’re writing your own business content, there’s no question, it’s easy to get stuck. You can bang your head against the wall, slam the laptop closed and get angry. Or you can work your way through your rut.

I began as a journalist, and there’s no question that some days the words simply flowed better than others. But when you’re on deadline pressure, you need to find ways to quickly stay on track and deliver a quality product.

Following, are 50 ways to beat writer’s block. Not all of these tips will work, all of the time. But if you find yourself stuck, scroll through and find what works for you. I guarantee there’s something here that will have your creative juices flowing again.

50 Methods to Beat Writer’s Block

Beat Writers block

While You’re Writing

  • Start in the middle – It’s not uncommon to find yourself stuck on the headline or the lead. The good news is that there is nothing that says you have to start from the beginning. Try writing out some of the middle paragraphs, and clarity may come. I am not writing these bullet points in sequential order.
  • Shut off your internal critic – Your internal editor and your creativity can work against each other. The simple solution to this problem is to write first and edit later. Put down the words first. Lay the foundation. You can always go back later and cut, paste, delete or rewrite.
  • Do more research – You may be stuck because you don’t have the whole picture for what you are trying to say. There may be the perfect example to support your argument, and you just don’t have it yet. Take a look at a few more websites, blogs, books or stories. Gather all the information you need.
  • Freewrite – Stop putting your restraints on everything. Take a short 10 minute break from your project, and simply write your thoughts down, either on screen or paper. Whatever is on your mind right now, write it down. This serves as a great way to declutter your brain and put yourself in a better state of flow.
  • Work on your soul project – Maybe you’re stuck because it’s just not what you should be working on right now. If your schedule allows, put down the project that has you stuck, and switch to a passion project that you’d love to be working on in the moment.
  • Give yourself weird challenges – I know writers who make it a challenge to work random words into a blog post. This may not work for everyone in every situation, but it can make the game more interesting.
  • Free associate with your subject – What are the major things related to your subject that you want to say? It doesn’t have to be an outline or a draft. Just put a few basic thoughts or ideas on paper and see where it goes.
  • Try writing it on pen and paper – Maybe going analog for the rest of the project can jumpstart your creativity.
  • What does your reader want to know? – Remember, when it comes to your business and blog writing, you are not writing for yourself. Ask yourself if what you’re writing is what your audience wants to know. If it’s not providing them some sort of value, that could be why you are stuck. It might be time to cut ties.

Planning

beat writers block

  • Plan your strategy – This is closely related to the above point. You may be stalled out because there is a lack of purpose behind your efforts. Make sure you understand your mission statement, and how everything you do underscores this mission. Every piece of content you produce needs to add value to your audience. If not, this lack of purpose can easily leave you stuck.
  • Create an outline before you start – Sometimes, we may be stuck because we’re lost. It’s important to remember the main theme of what we are trying to write. It can help to put an outline down on paper, with the points we want to make in support of that theme.
  • Don’t be captive to the outline – Now, the opposite can also be true. We may be stuck because we’re feeling beholden to that outline. If there’s a better path, don’t be afraid to diverge. Nothing is set in stone. In the end, it’s about creating the best product possible, not the one that was closest to our notes.
  • Think about your life/business. What makes a good story? – Is there something in your background that you are overlooking? If you are stuck for an idea, make sure you are uncovering all the stones.
  • Ask the right questions – Along the same lines, when you are curious about something, follow it through to its natural conclusion. Make sure you are asking the right questions for your writing. The more interesting questions you ask (and have answered) the more interesting your content, and your life.
  • Give yourself more to do – There are all sorts of studies out there establishing that students who take on more extracurricular activities do better in class. Are you giving yourself enough to do? You’ll have to be honest with yourself on this one. You may be in a rut because there’s nothing substantial to do next.
  • Incorporate a daily writing practice – Having a regular writing routine keeps you in practice and strong. If you write 400 words a day for example, you’ll have a better understanding for how to beat writer’s block. Or you’ll be stuck at your desk for longer each day. You choose.
  • Ask yourself if there is more than one way to tell the story – You may have a way to tell the story. But you may not yet have found the way to tell the story. Keep searching. There might be something you’re missing.
  • Talk with a mentor or colleague – There’s someone out there who can help you become unstuck. You know who that person is. Pick up the phone.
  • Find ideas to steal – Austin Kleon writes about this in Steal Like an Artist. It’s ok to go out there, find someone else’s useful idea and put your own polish on it. Make it better. Make it yours. In fact, that’s how the world advances.

Productivity

beat writers block

  • Close your browser tabs – Are you distracted at every given moment you’re on the computer. You don’t need a special piece of software. All you need to do is close out of your email, social media, and news tabs. The reality of the situation is you may never get anything done if you don’t put your agenda first. It may seem selfish, but to make something (or write something) requires discipline.
  • AWH (Always Wear Headphones) – I am writing this piece from my home office in the basement. Earlier in the morning my son was stomping around the front room, above me. Headphones. They’re every writer’s best friend.
  • ACD (Always Close Door) – This goes along with the theme of the above two tips. Your family, friends, or employees may not always understand your priorities, or needs to finish this project. Make sure that you keep your door closed and stay focused when you are working.
  • Give yourself an artificial deadline – When it comes to serving your customers or clients, I’m sure you’re prompt. You probably offer some great customer service, along with what you sell. How about treating your own marketing with the same conviction. If you don’t have a clear deadline, give yourself one. Stick to it, and make sure you have something you can be proud of when the final hour approaches. This can be a great way to beat writer’s block.

Take a Quick Break

beat writers block

  • Give yourself 10 minutes on FB, Twitter or G+ – Don’t fall all the way down the rabbit hole. But if you’re truly stuck or agitated, set a timer, and scroll for a few minutes.
  • Do your chores – Ideas and clarity can come by taking a simple five-minute break to unload the dishwasher.
  • Go ahead, stare out the window – Take a few minutes and gather your thoughts while you admire the rain, the trees, or whatever else is going on right outside your window. Enjoying everything in your environment can help you beat writer’s block.
  • Answer some Quora questions – This is a great way to simply give yourself a writing prompt. If you are unfamiliar, Quora is a question and answer website, where experts can share their insights. You can answer audience questions, and use those answers as a blog posts.
  • Reread your old work – You may need a subtle reminder of some of the value you’ve provided your audience in the past. There may be other posts or content that you’ve struggled with in the past. Go, reread those posts, and use them as examples of how you’ve overcome this same problem in the past.
  • Take five deep breaths and keep writing – Sometimes a quick mental break may be all it takes to push on. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can help us beat writer’s block.
  • As many pushups as you can – You’re probably annoyed that your content isn’t working out the way you wanted it to. This is actually a healthy way to get the blood flowing. When you sit back at your chair you might have some ideas. You might not.

Consider Your Daily Routine

beat writers block

  • Vary your writing location – Always writing from the same place can become boring and stale. If you want to create extraordinary work, try finding a new writing location.
  • Vary your writing schedule – Some people find themselves in the groove easier in the morning or in the evening. Make sure you know enough about yourself, to determine if you fall into one of these camps – and act accordingly.
  • Establish a morning routine – Incorporating some structure into your morning routine can ground you for the rest of the day. This is a great time to exercise, meditate, and organize your day. Pulling yourself together at this point can help you from getting stuck later.

Feed Your Body, Feed Your Mind

beat writers block

  • Glorious, wonderful, coffee – Early in the morning, there are no substitutes for a little java when it comes to keeping the creative juices flowing. If you’re stuck later in the day, it may help as well.
  • Go have a drink – It may simply be time to walk away for the day. If it’s been a particularly frustrating experience, it may be time to reward yourself. Go ahead. Have a drink (or 2).
  • Meditate – Incorporating 10 minutes of meditation into your morning or evening can be a great way to improve your ability to focus. If you’re looking to beat writer’s block, it can help to sit down for a few minutes to remove your mental clutter. Insight, Headspace or Calm are all great places to start. Coming from a place of calm can help you beat writer’s block.
  • Read a book about headlines – Understanding how to write headlines that sell will help you develop your creative muscles. It will help you see the piece from your readers’ point of view, and give you the ability to climb out of any writing hole. Seriously take a look at David Garfinkel’s Advertising Headlines that Make You Rich or Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks. Both can do wonders for your writing.
  • Read books outside your industry – If you work as any kind of specialist, it becomes easy to see in tunnel vision, like an oncologist who only sees cancer. Reading books about subjects outside your industry gives you a way to infuse new ideas into your work and beat writer’s block.
  • Read industry blog posts – Make sure you are staying on the forefront of industry news, trends and research. The more current you are, the better the content you will produce. The more knowledge you have, the more options you have to beat writer’s block.
  • Think about a different problem – What is another problem that means something to you? Are you concerned about the environment, hunger or homelessness? Go read about it or do something about it and come back. Sometimes thinking about something beyond yourself or the scope of your business can do you good.

When It’s Time To Walk Away

beat writers block

  • Get some sleep – You’re probably tired. A fresh perspective will likely help.
  • Walk around a bookstore – Seriously. You can’t go five feet without stumbling into another writer’s ideas.
  • Talk with a friend – A non-related conversation with a friend can provide a reset. Come back and address the problem later, without feeling drained.
  • Take in a movie – Good old-fashioned escapism might be the solution. But only if you come back eventually and solve the problem.
  • Go play – You don’t necessarily need kids for this one, but it can help. I have a virtual reality headset that I love to use. I also train my dog, learn Spanish, and read any book I can get my hand on. LEGOS, puzzles, toys, whatever it is, immerse yourself in something fun. That fun can help you beat writer’s block.
  • Build something – Nothing is more satisfying than creating something with your bare hands. Remember that show NCIS? Mark Harmon’s character was always working on building a boat in his basement. Other than being a nice story device, it gave him a chance to walk away from his problems. It doesn’t have to be a boat, but creating something can give you the perfect out from your business.
  • Read to your kids – The other day I found myself at the bookstore with my 4-year-old son while my wife ran errands. I read to him in the kids section for about an hour. We read books about caring for your ideas, building new things, and more. Their insight, and their interpretation of the world can teach you how to address a problem. New perspective can help you beat writer’s block.

As a Last Resort…

  • Bang your head on the wall – Seriously, if you’re that frustrated, do it. After a couple Advil it might help you beat writer’s block. It might not. While you’re at it, yell as loud as you can.
  • Destroy your computer – You know you’re frustrated. You’ve seen the movie Office Space, right? The dude takes a copier outside and smashes it with a bat. It might not be practical, but when you can’t solve your problem, it sure would feel good. Or, you could just…
  • Hire someone – You run a business for a living. Marketing, accounting and other activities can take you away from what originally got you started with your business in the first place. Don’t be afraid to hire a marketing copywriter.

Conclusion…

What are the best way’s you’ve found to beat writer’s block? Do you have any tips or tricks that aren’t on the list? Let me know in the comments!

03 May 16:41

How to Counteract Two Hidden Problems of Developing Leaders

by Liz Kislik

A few times a year, clients ask me to design or participate in their leadership development programs. These programs require significant investment, so senior leaders view them as a way to groom and strengthen high-potential employees — the ones they hope will become change-makers and their eventual successors.

But even development programs meant for high-potential employees can sag in the middle: Maybe only a few of the planned courses are delivered, employees complain that their time isn’t being well spent, or the company doesn’t see any boost in performance.

Routinely, two things get in the way of effective leadership programs: the employees who are chosen to participate, and the content and structure of the program itself.

The Typical Choices Aren’t Always the Right Ones

In some cases, everyone at a given organizational level or in a particular cadre is tapped for development. The company may be trying to amortize program costs over a large group, hedging against dropout and failure rates, or rewarding good performance. That’s fine for teaching basic concepts, but it doesn’t support the specificity and nuance necessary to shape future leaders.

Alternatively, department heads may designate candidates, without clear criteria. Too often they choose their top performer or a favorite subordinate who doesn’t make waves; but many top performers are really subject matter experts, not the strategists and people developers that senior leaders need to be. And while “favorites” may elevate their department’s status or their own, they’re more likely to preserve the status quo rather than looking for the best ways to advance the organization.

Either way, you end up with bycatch: employees who take the program but aren’t necessarily the most desirable targets. Their functional talents may be wasted and their expectations raised too high; simultaneously, they slow the momentum and dilute the focus of the participants with true leadership potential. Dissatisfaction ensues for all.

Get to Know Your Candidates

So put in the effort to select and enroll people who are strategic and creative thinkers and can also galvanize others to take appropriate action. Get to know them well enough to understand:

  • What motivates them?
  • Have they shown good judgment without merely mirroring their direct supervisor?
  • Do they have functional competence and also recognize how their function serves the larger organization’s goals?
  • Do peers trust them, share information with them, and respond positively to their input?
  • What do they see as their own special gifts, and are their perceptions accurate?

Development is Personal

Employees with significant leadership potential are also committed to their own personal growth. If they suspect they’re getting off-the-shelf content that’s not relevant to their actual work environment, they lose interest and your trainers, developers, and program sponsors lose credibility. Plus, if employees don’t have opportunities to implement what they’re learning, much of its value is wasted.

So instead of marching all participants through the same generic leadership content, tailor content for each person’s experience and goals. Wherever you find common denominators, organize group training around them, but don’t neglect the coaching and mentoring to ensure that each high-potential employee develops as fully as possible.

Prepare High-Potentials for the Real World

Always treat these folks as the special individuals they are, worthy of investment, because they’re the ones who can and will take you into the future. Be sure to explain why what they’re learning is important to the organization and how they’ll use it later on the job.

Structure group projects in which high-potential employees share data and other resources with their peers, cope with divergent perspectives, and experience joint outcomes. These assignments should be complex, multifaceted, and progressive enough so they feel the exercise and deliberate practice.

Recognize them for their useful experiments, even if the outcomes are not perfect or as expected. Help them see their progress so they can check on their own growing effectiveness. Thank them for their deliberate practice and best efforts so long as they are developing sound perspectives and approaches.

And encourage them to nurture and praise the value of others, to ensure that when they go back to their departments, they don’t lord it over their colleagues.

03 May 16:31

Scrum as a Driver for Organizational Change

by Ilia Pavlichenko

http://www.unusual-concepts.ru/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Scrum-Framework-Official-1024x473.png

When talking about Scrum, people often imagine the picture above: framework and its roles, artifacts, and events. Scrum rules are fairly simple, and they are thoroughly described in the Scrum Guide. Obviously, Scrum is attractive because of its potential advantages (value, speed, etc.). At my certified Scrum Trainings, I often meet company executives (even non-IT ones) who have read Jeff Sutherland’s famous book The Art of Doing Twice The Work In Half The Time and are eager to implement Scrum and get the promised goodies. It seems that once roles are defined and certification training is over, everything is settled. Unfortunately, this is not quite how things are… or, not even close to how things are, and here’s why.

The Hidden Side of Scrum

Actually, the chart above is the least interesting one. There are different ones that, to my mind, more accurately define the nature of Scrum.

Freedom

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For me, the main features of Scrum are freedom and creativity, when you can break from the ties of scientific management, which says that each employee is lazy by nature and therefore, performance can be increased only through mandatory standardization of working tools, methods and environment. This is where functional silos come from.

Scrum Team is a self-organized, self-managed unit that, ideally, should be able to make independent decisions on the broadest range of tasks possible. Here are some examples:

  • How to do the work (design, architecture, modeling, planning, tools, etc.);
  • Team setup (the Development Team decides whom to hire or fire together with the Product Owner; the latter allocates budget for the decisions taken);
  • Coordination: cross-functional teams are free to make their own decisions regarding internal and external interaction. The manager’s role is no longer needed, because coordinating cross-functional teams is a trivial task that can be done by Developers;
  • In the Scrum paradigm, the Product Owner is regarded as a mini-CEO (think Steve Jobs) who is responsible for ROI, making independent decisions, shaping the product vision, defining the business value model and is responsible for its optimization.

Teamwork

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Here’s what teamwork means in Scrum:

  • Common success or failure (think how individual KPIs in a company enhance it);
  • No formal hierarchy in the team (“Scrum recognizes no titles for Development Team members other than Developer, regardless of the work being performed by the person; there are no exceptions to this rule);
  • Active mutual help, thinking outside the “I am a Java developer and my sole task is writing Java code” box. The main task of each Development Team member is helping the team to the fullest so that it could move its “ball” as far as possible (hence the term Scrum);
  • The whole team is responsible for the result (think how much organizational structure and performance appraisal/bonus system support this).

Cross-Functional, Cross-Platform Teams

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Most companies are structured vertically or function-wise, when departments and units bring together people that have the same specialization (Marketing, Sales, IT/R&D, Compliance). There is a line manager in each functional silo. Usually, R&D or IT have further silos (Development, Testing, Analysis, Component 1… Component N). This structure is optimized for maximum resource utilization (efficiency), but it doesn’t have much in common with the company’s business agility (effectiveness), because in order to create value for the external customer, cross-functional and cross-platform interaction of several units is needed. Very often, this results in functional units being disbanded and feature teams being created.

Incremental, Iterative Development

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Under the incremental, iterative approach, the final product is born after extensive experimentation and obtaining feedback from end users and stakeholders. “Iterative” means making changes to the output of the previous steps. This automatically leads to changing the game rules, leaving the Fixed Scope-Price-Time contracts behind and switching to direct cooperation between business and development (Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation). Does this entail potential organizational changes? Probably so.

Empirical Control

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At the end of each Sprint, the team creates the “Done” Potentially Releasable Product Increment. This way, the Product Owner obtains business agility and can decide to ship the product to the market at any point. Moreover, this makes the project transparent: stakeholders understand the current product status and development progress. Often the progress can be unsatisfactory, which is OK. In this case, product development can be stopped early, with the remaining budget forwarded to other initiatives (undoubted success!).

The most important thing is to stop complaining that Scrum highlighted the existing variations to the development process, and resist the urge to come back to the winner-loser game or to fix-price contracts with attributes such as commitment and zero transparency.

Organizational Structure Change Following Scrum Implementation

I would like to share a case of successful Scrum implementation at a middle-size software development company (under 200 employees). Prior to Scrum implementation, its organizational structure was pretty typical, with a lot of functional silos (see picture below) and corresponding drawbacks:

  • Poor interaction between functional silos;
  • Lack of responsibility (“My task is to…”);
  • Excessive management + hand-offs;
  • Lack of agility, low development speed;
  • Decreased transparency (“Where are we now?”).

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And now, behold: this is the company’s organizational structure after Scrum implementation (see the picture below):

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Here’s what has been changed during Scrum implementation:

  • Several functional departments were merged into a single product group.
  • The number of managers decreased.
  • The teams switched from component to cross-functional structure.
  • Business and development were placed in one product group.

The structural changes that took place became possible, first of all, thanks to the uncompromising support of the company’s owner, a great deal of patience, support from employees and, of course, sense of humor. Obviously, this transformation story deserves a separate article on its own.

So, what exactly is Scrum?

Scrum is a driver of organizational change that helps companies become more agile and resilient. Correct Scrum implementation leads to inevitable change in organizational structure, its simplification (“flattening”) or de-scaling.

If your organizational chart did not change after Scrum had been implemented, it can mean two things.

  • You are absolutely awesome and agile, and your current organizational structure is already Scrum-optimized. Congratulations!
  • Most likely, Scrum has been implemented only halfway, and organizational gravitation won the first battle, so that status quo and power structures remained intact. Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t quit!

Scrum ON!

03 May 16:30

Essential Sales Qualification Questions to Ask of Your Customers

by Nikka Alejandro

Not all contacts can be defined as is a lead, correspondingly not all leads are “sales-ready”. Some sales teams assume that every lead that marketing has offered is already qualified for sales. They go through the whole process of trying to nurture the lead and close a deal, but all their efforts are wasted due to the leads not being qualified.

An efficient lead qualification screening can help your sales team save time by not wasting time and resources chasing ill-suited prospects. This also allows the marketing team to more closely align with the needs and goals of the sales team.

The key to overall corporate success is to make sure that you are pursuing the right prospects, and that they are properly qualified. By qualifying prospects, you ensure not only corporate success but also, in the long run, customer success.

Read more tips on how to create customer success in sales here.

Determining whether a lead is qualified or not is not only done according to just a single rule. Companies typically follow a set of definitions to measure the sales qualification of the leads. Whether you run a marketing and sales team, or if you’re on your own, one crucial step at the start of lead generation is to decide what actually makes a ‘good’ lead.

A ‘qualified opportunity’ is more specific than a ‘lead’, and will need to meet certain criteria that you identify as the right fit for your business.

THE “MAN”

When you talk to new prospects you need to know how to qualify customers effectively first. This is the process of establishing whether they are “the MAN”.

In order to help prospects, you would need to ask them a variety of questions. Without asking questions, it’s impossible to know how to best to help a prospect find a solution, or even know if you have the right products to help them out.

The first thing we need to know and understand is that, for a lead to be called a “good lead”, we have to be able to answer “yes” to these three questions.

Do they have the money?
Do they have the authority to spend it?
Do they have a need that we can satisfy?

Money

Making sure your prospects can afford the solution you are offering to fix their problem should they decide they want it, is part of the qualifying process. But as with all things in sales, the sales questions we ask, how we ask them, and when we ask them makes the difference between closing and losing a sale.

Money questions will help you discover whether your prospect can afford your product or service. What is your budget question? You will need to draw out a figure on how much your prospect expects to spend for the investment to fulfill their needs solve their problems. Now would be a good time to convince them about the typical ROI for your solution and what makes their investment worth it.

Adapt these questions to fit your product, service, personality, drill and rehearse them until they become automatic for you:

Are you responsible for establishing the budget?

It pays to know who has the power and control over their sales budget. If you end up facing a pricing objection, you’ll know exactly who you need to talk to about getting the additional budget. Remember that budgets are decided by different stakeholders at different companies. If the one you’re talking to already is the one responsible for the establishing the budget, it’ll be a lot easier discussing their budgetary investment.

Do you already have a budget allocated?

Most of the time, a company will have a specific budget set aside for purchasing solutions. Knowing this info, it will enable you to apply strategies about potential up-selling and cross-selling opportunities. Even if prospects don’t reveal what their sales budget is, knowing that they have a budget in place should help you understand how sales-ready they are.

What are you ideally looking to invest?

Instead of using the word “spend” with your prospects, help them to realize that purchasing your solution is an “investment.” You can also launch a conversation about what the returns on their investment can be to help you negate pricing objections before they even arise. It also puts the responsibility on you to discuss ROI for that investment, so always be prepared.

Authority

During your first conversation with a prospect, it’s important to understand what their vision is for the business. That is the only time you can identify how or if you can help. In order to have a successful first call, it’s first and foremost important to understand if you’re talking to the right person.

Authority questions should be to help you figure your prospect company’s organizational structure. Asking these questions will give you a better idea on who the key decision makers are in the company.

Authority Questions:

How does your company evaluate new solutions?

Asking how their company evaluates new solutions can provide you with very useful data. Your prospect may also volunteer exactly which stakeholders are involved in evaluating new purchases that will be made. Likewise, they might freely volunteer who has the authority to make decisions.

In addition to yourself, who else at your company is facing these problems?

This question offers another view for learning who has authority on purchasing decision. It’s important to quickly know who all the key decision makers are in your prospect company. If possible, try to figure out who the primary decision maker is and who are the influencers. Each company is different in terms of corporate structure, so keep in mind that sometimes the decision maker with the most pull might not be who you think it is at first.

What’s your purchasing process?

When selling to companies, it’s strategically important to be aware what their buying process is. Does their CEO need to sign off on deals? Does their company prefer to start small with pilot programs? Would setting up a group meeting with all the key stakeholders be more ideal? Instead of asking all of these questions individually, you can simply ask your prospect their process for reaching a purchasing decision. They’ll likely talk you through their entire process and give you valuable information that can help you manage the deal.

Need

Need questions are needed to determine whether your product or service is suitable for your prospect. You need to believe that your product or service is able to solve their problems.

A prospect who has a need for what you’re selling won’t necessarily be aware of it yet when you first reach out to him. This is why the sales qualifying questions you’re going to ask your prospects are important since these can help them to realize that need and at the same time you’re uncovering information for yourself.

Need Questions:

What’s the business problem you’re seeking to fix with this offering?

Change is never easy. Businesses don’t undertake new implementations and processes just for the fun of it. If there’s no real problem the prospect is trying to solve, there’s no real reason for them to buy. Establish what their pain points are before diving into other questions. It can either be a known issue or a problem the prospect wasn’t even aware of.

Have you tried to solve this problem in the past? If so, why didn’t that solution work?

On the other hand, it’s possible that the prospect has attempted a solution before, but for whatever reason, it didn’t work. Digging into the past can uncover that what the best solution is – or that your prospect needs what you sell ASAP.

What happens if you do nothing about the problem?

If your prospect’s answer goes something like “well, not much,” they don’t have an urgent need for a solution. In this respect, the sales representative should either disqualify the lead or explain to them the possible problems that lie ahead if it goes unresolved (only if they truly believe this).

02 May 18:55

Top 6 Best Practices for B2B Sales Enablement

by David Reimherr

Increasing the efficiency of a company’s sales and finding ways to increase time actively selling is not always easy. However, one person that has been through the dark tunnel of sales improvement and seen their way to the other side, is Matt Heinz.

As the founder of Heinz Marketing and someone with over 15 years of business development, marketing, and sales experience, Heinz is an expert in helping companies improve sales, achieve revenue growth, boost products, and retain customers. Now he shares his insight on the best practices for B2B marketers who want to enable better sales.

Sales Enablement: Faster and Efficient

The purpose of sales enablement is for a company to spend more time actively selling and increase the conversion rate of their opportunities. They are cutting out the muddy waters and background noise that decreases efficiency in the sales realm.

By converting customers faster and more frequently, a company will see better growth overall.

Sales enablement applies to the administrative and sales side of the enterprise. Heinz says that the sales funnel requires full-bodied support, and to do that both marketing and sales must work together

1. Establishing an Internal Consensus

Everyone must be on the same page in regards to the buyer persona. That means not only having a target consumer, but understanding who that consumer is, what motivates them, what deters them, and more.

Essentially, a company must establish a buyer persona and then share that persona with all key players in marketing and sales. That allows people to understand the stages of where their customers go for answers, what influences them to buy, and so on.

2. Utilize the Data Appropriately

Once the data is collected about the buyer and the buyer persona, the persona needs to be applied correctly. Heinz points out that most personas are funneled into marketing, but the message must also come from sales and how those sales reflect the buyer persona.

Sales team members are often concerned with making sure a customer is not forced into purchasing something they do not need, but they are motivated to sell regardless. Marketing, on the other hand, needs to understand what a qualified prospect is and what a qualified prospect is not. To do this, both teams must assess the data and create common objectives that help them establish a common ground.

Watch the interview here:

3. Become a Trusted Expert

One way marketing and sales can work together is by establishing the brand as an expert. Sharing information that helps people understand their products or services will create a level of authority and trust among buyers.

Eventually, a greater percentage of buyers will seek out that company again, because they provide value to the consumer.

4. Create a Bond

Heinz points out that a purchase is emotional. Therefore, creating a relationship and strong bond between the sales prospect and the seller is critical. Companies must also ensure that sales team members are not building their brand because that does not benefit the company long-term.

However, companies must also recognize that people want to bond with people; not logos or company names. Therefore, a marketing team needs to help empower every sales representative with the right tools, content, and processes that engage on a wider scale.

5. Nurture the Relationship

Nurturing takes many forms in marketing, but one of the simplest is just keeping in touch with qualified leads. The more they see your brand and company name, the more they are nurtured into a buying relationship. Heinz points out that an efficient nurturing tool is email newsletters.

However, sales professionals must know when to stop nurturing a stalled lead. If someone has never had a purchase or he or she are not ready to buy, marketing can re-market to them later.

6. Throw Out the Sales Scripts

Sales scripts are something Heinz says never work, and in his years of marketing, he has yet to see one that did. Therefore, a script should never be a go-to for making sales more efficient. A conversation’s start might be scripted, but from there the sales staff should know how to guide a prospect in the right direction through improv. Most importantly, the sales professional must advocate for the deal and advocate for the customer’s needs in that conversation — something a script cannot do.

Enabling more efficient sales comes down to teamwork between marketing and sales. When both components work together, a business is more likely to increase sales and find qualified leads so that sales team members are there to nurture instead of starting from nothing.

Get effective B2B marketing assistance and direct mail marketing from the team at Magnificent. Also, do not forget to follow Matt Heinz’s blog for more tips on sales and marketing.

The post Top 6 Best Practices for B2B Sales Enablement appeared first on Social Media Explorer.

02 May 18:44

How League’s Kyle Norton Generates 20 Sales Qualified Opportunities Per SDR, Per Month

by claire atkin

For Kyle Norton, Sales Coach at Toronto’s fast-growing health insurance startup League, successful prospecting is the result of balancing two core functions: adherence to a consistent sales process and constant learning.

The post How League’s Kyle Norton Generates 20 Sales Qualified Opportunities Per SDR, Per Month appeared first on Predictable Revenue.

02 May 18:43

Transform Your Customer Relationships

by Daniel Burrus

These days, “talking about our relationship” means more than it used to. Now, it spells game-changing opportunity.

For many, an organization’s relationship with its customers used to be largely limited to the point of sale. Thereafter, contact was a good deal more incidental—maybe a bit of anecdotal feedback or a response to a satisfaction survey, but that was usually it.

Thanks to technology such as connected devices and embedded software, that’s all changed now. Understanding how this technology works as well as its potential can offer your organization both meaningful insight and opportunity.

One Hub: The Internet of Things (IoT)

January’s annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas highlighted the broad potential of products and services related to the Internet of Things (IoT). That’s the Internet-based network of computing devices and sensors embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data and carry out functions based on preprogrammed instructions. As one article detailed, that’s growing to include everything from a bed that automatically adjusts during the night to a “smart” hairbrush that critiques morning grooming technique.

But alongside the new ways users can leverage IoT is the related opportunity for companies providing these products and services—and not just ending at the point of sale. In effect, IoT-connected devices also provide companies with enormous potential regarding product and customer service, greatly boosting interaction and speed of response. (For a piece on how to prepare your customer support team to work with IoT-connected consumers, go here.)

Nor is connectivity limited to basic customer support. Many companies today interact with the customer in many ways, long after the sale is made, collaborating with them on engineer-to-order (ETO), configure-to-order (CTO) or service management processes. Data from connected devices and embedded software enhance these and other opportunities.

Boosting New Product Research and Development

Another advantage from connected devices and embedded software is relates to things yet to come. The IoT can vastly accelerate product research and development. By using sensor, diagnostic and user-interaction data from devices, companies enjoy full product transparency. By seeing how customers are using their products, businesses can quickly update features or adjust future models to better match customer desires and behaviors.

From an anticipatory standpoint, companies can also better predict future consumer preferences. This insight is invaluable – rather than going through tedious trial and error, companies can know in real time what is working and what is not, enabling them to make data-driven decisions and immediately correct or adjust issues. This leads to better product design—both now and in the future.

Marketing and advertising also benefit. With the data from connected devices, companies can better understand and predict customer preferences. Then, rather than creating a general, one-size-fits-all marketing strategy, advertisers and marketers can target individual segments of their customer bases. Instead of flooding all customers with the same offer, marketing teams can create personalized offers geared to attract particular customers.

Privacy—The Elephant in the Room

Understandably, discussion of IoT-related issues brings to mind consumer privacy concerns. Users must willingly supply a fair amount of personal data for these devices to serve their individual needs. And the number of well-publicized hacks in 2016 alone—involving luminaries such as Yahoo and Dropbox—illustrates the very real risk of someone grabbing reams of personal details.

Other concerns go beyond those of the individual user. The move toward universal connection also boosted a surge in the number of distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against businesses in 2016.

But, ironically enough, therein lie other areas of opportunity, as developers look to shore up existing and potential security breaches. For instance, The Norton Core, developed by Symantec, is a router built with IoT in mind, capable of monitoring traffic for unusual activity and able to alert the user of suspected hijacks. This is just one example of new tools that are being deployed to increase security.

A sense of balance is critical. Once adequate security measures are developed and in widespread use, the IoT—and with it, the subsets of connected sensors, devices and embedded software—offers enormous potential for companies to know their customers better. Just as important, companies will be able to be more anticipatory than ever when it comes to staying on top of changing customer satisfaction and preferences.

02 May 18:43

24 time-saving hacks that will free up hours in your weekly schedule

by Chris Weller

Relaxing

Research about productivity teaches us one clear lesson: Multitasking doesn't work.

So what are busybodies of the 21st century to do?

According to users in a recent Quora thread, there are a range of daily behaviors people can tweak — even just slightly — to free up lots of extra time during the week.

Get ready to be your most efficient self.

SEE ALSO: 11 habits the most influential people share

Automate as many of your daily tasks as possible, so you can focus on bigger things.

"Let's see what are the things you could automate:

-Don't love going to the grocery store every week? Use Instacart

-Don't love going to the gas station every week? Use FuelPanda (Disclosure: I am a co-founder)

-Don't love cleaning your house every few weeks? Use Handy

-Don't love cooking every day? Try different Food delivery services

-Don't love washing clothes? Use Washio

-Don't love doing small online errands? Use Fancy Hands

-Don't love paying bills? Use Auto pay on your account

-Don't love thinking about what to wear each day? Wear the same type of dress every day

Once you automate everything that you don't love, then the rest is beautiful!"

-Pavan



Follow the "Two-minute rule": If something takes very little time, just get it done.

"If you can do something (like replying to an email, or a house chore) in 2 minutes, do it now. Planning it for later, remembering it, doing it in the future will take 5 minutes or more."

-Marius Ursache



Think of your ability to make good decisions as a limited resource, because that's what it is.

"Don't think that willpower will help you when you get in trouble. Make important decisions in the morning and automate everything possible (delegate, batch etc.). US presidents don't have to choose their menu or suit color every day — otherwise their willpower will be depleted at that late hour when they should push (or not push) the red button)."

-Marius Ursache



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
02 May 18:42

14 Ways to Become the MacGyver of Email Open Rates

by Rick Kranz

As with all digital marketing methods, you have an abundance of metrics to track and analyze in email marketing. While many of these metrics are important to assessing the success of an email or email campaign, your email open rates remain the threshold and leading indicator as to how an email will perform. Nothing else happens if your email doesn’t get opened.

The Radicati Group’s Email Statistics Report 2017 – 2021 shows that email usage continues to grow. It predicts 269 billion business and consumer emails will get sent each day during 2017 and will reach 319.6 billion per day by 2021. So that’s a lot of email for people to sort through. That’s why average email open rates from a range of industries range between 17 and 27%.

Getting your email noticed is hard.

But like MacGyver with some paperclips and a pack of chewing gum, we’ve got some hacks to make sure your email open rates get above industry standards.

Making it to the inbox

Emails that “bounce” – that is they can’t be delivered because the recipient email address is bad – aren’t included in the email open rate calculation. But emails that end up in spam folders are delivered, they’re just not delivered to the intended inbox. That’s a chunk of emails cut off the top that depress open rates. So stay out of the spam folder.

  1. Take out any words or phrases that look like something a cheerleader in an informercial would say. Cut out the multiple exclamation marks. No ALL CAPS. No “BEST DEAL EVER!!!!!”
  1. Be creative with your fonts, but not too creative. Obscure, specialty fonts don’t translate well across multiple email platforms. Your design creativity – with the stunning lettering – can be expressed in the images you include (just remember compress them first so the image file isn’t too big).
  1. Have an annual purge…of email addresses on your list that haven’t engaged with any of your emails in a long time. Having a high volume of inactive email accounts on your list will red flag you to spam filters. Run a last chance, highly motivating campaign to this segment of your list and then purge the non-responders. A clean, up-to-date list is your greatest asset.

From/ Subject line headers and preview text that capture attention

  1. Clickbait is dead. The days of teaser email subject lines is over. The subject lines that get the best click rates are those that are clear, concise, and descriptive. Subject lines don’t have to make the case that reading this email will change the reader’s life, just click to find out how!! If the email is your quarterly newsletter – say so. If the email is a 24-hour flash sale – say so.
  1. Concise, around 50 characters, is good. And it will get your full subject line visible on mobile devices, where over half of emails are now being read.
  1. Brighten things up with an emoji or two. Don’t use generic smiley emojis. If you’re sending out birthday emails to people on your list, include a cake or horn. Put a little rolled up newspaper in your newsletter subject line. Get creative. Use emojis that fit the personality of the personas and industries you’re targeting.
  1. Personalize the subject line. This may include using the recipient’s name, but you can also personalize it in other ways. If the email is promoting a local event, indicate that. If you’re sending an email to people who spent a lot of time reading a certain category of posts on your blog, allude to that topic – as long as your email is touching on it as well.
  1. Use a person’s name in the From line. People connect with people. You can include the company name as well, say “Rick, from OverGo Studio.”
  1. Set your own preview text. Preview text is that short snippet of the email that appears with the subject line, particularly on mobile email. If you don’t set your own preview text, the email app will just pull text from the body of your email. MacGyver would never be so passive. Build your own preview text. You have around 50 characters to add one more clear, concise reason to click open this email.

Sending your emails at the right time

  1. Strike while the iron is hot. As soon as someone subscribes to your list or downloads some content, they should get an immediate welcome email. The email should confirm their expectations about what sort of content you’ll be sending and how often. Don’t worry that this will cause people to immediately unsubscribe – only a miniscule number will at this point. And frankly, you want them to because those are the ones who would’ve started marking you as spam.
  1. Use behavioral triggers to send the right email at the right time. Abandoned cart? Send a reminder email within a few hours. Someone’s been visiting the website and downloaded an ebook, send an email with more information or contact call-to-action relevant to the content they were viewing. Using email marketing automation makes setting up these sort of behavioral trigger emails easy.
  1. Pick the right day. Emails that aren’t opened within 24 hours of being sent have less than a one percent chance of being opened at all. You can find tons of studies showing why to send emails on this day or that day. Tuesdays and Fridays seem to have the best generic numbers. But your list is your list. Look at your own numbers to find the best days to send emails.
  1. Don’t assume there’s one best day for your entire list. Look for spikes in email open rates by market segment, email type (e.g special offers versus educational content), and “From” lines.
  1. Hacks 12 and 13 hold true for the time of day you send an email as well. Do “offer” emails tank in early morning, when people are gearing up for work, but do better in early evening when people are more open to shopping? Maybe. Maybe not. Find out what times people on your list like different types of emails.

Email marketing has ridiculous ROI and it all starts with open rates. Boost your open rates and watch your other email marketing metrics follow suit.

02 May 18:40

The Ultimate Guide to Growth Stage Pricing

by Kyle Poyar
02 May 18:31

3 Quick Tips To Transform Your Marketing With Video

by Dave Sutton

I recently had a prospective client describe the foundation of his marketing strategy as “developing an awesome viral video.” He said this video will “garner so much attention that it will drive enormous traffic to my website and trigger massive purchase intent for our product.” As an example, he cited the highly-publicized success story of Dollar Shave Club, asserting that the meteoric rise of their brand was due to their clever promotional video, which went viral and to date has received nearly 25 million views. However, he failed to acknowledge that Dollar Shave Club spent over $80 million on advertising in 2016 – which might also have a little bit to do with their “overnight” success. Rather than engage him in a debate on the finer points of integrated marketing strategy, I decided to agree with him. The use of video had a transformational impact for Dollar Shave Club. It helped them launch their brand story and execute their strategy to disrupt and shake up what had been a sleepy and stodgy category.

“Viral video” is a marketing buzz word that is bantered around a lot these days. Everyone wants one but they’re not exactly sure how to produce it. So, what exactly constitutes a viral video? How many views does it need to be considered viral? What ingredients does it take to “go viral”?


“A guide for creating a successful viral campaign is as effective as a tutorial on how to win the lottery.”

— Christian Haas, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners


Now, if we had the secret recipe for creating viral videos, we probably wouldn’t be writing this blog post right now! The purpose of this post is not to reveal the secrets of producing a viral video. Rather, it is to convince you of the importance of video as a vehicle to help you transform your marketing, even if your videos never go viral.

Launching a high impact brand story previously relied heavily on distribution through broad reach media, like TV, and focusing on high production value methods, materials, and stagecraft skills. These days, however, online video is king and every kid with an iPhone can go toe-to-toe with a Clio award-winning ad agency.

Looking at this through TopRight’s lens of simplicity, clarity, and alignment, here are a few tips to help you get started with video marketing.

1. Keep it Simple with Explainer Videos

One of the best approaches to get started marketing your products or services is to make an explainer video. An explainer video simply describes who you are, what your story is, and what you offer to your target customers. If you want to amp it up a bit, you can also introduce animation to help demonstrate your product or service in action. Animation gives you the freedom to show things that might not work well with live-action, such as oversaturated colors, big exaggerated movements, and, of course, the integration of symbols to help simplify complex ideas to better engage your audience without putting them to sleep! Explainer videos also share well on social media because of their entertaining and educational nature. When done right, they shouldn’t feel like a sales pitch. If your audience feels like they want to be part of your story, they will be motivated to share with others.

2. Give Your Audience a Clear Reason to Care, Watch and Engage

Your target customers have a lot of other salespeople and marketers vying for their attention. They are constantly bombarded with sales pitches, white papers, infographics, free trials – a never-ending litany of offers. Those things take time to read, and they’re rarely enjoyable. As marketers, oftentimes we are so eager to push messaging at our prospects that we fail to give them sufficient reason to care about, let alone engage with, our brand. Transformative marketers create content as if they were presenting a gift to a friend – generously giving to the audience without necessarily asking for something in return. Video is the perfect medium for delivering that kind of gift. It enables you to tell your brand story quickly and help the audience to envision themselves as part of that story — which is tough to accomplish with text alone. Further, with video, you can trigger emotion, connect with your viewers and clearly measure their interactions in ways that are impossible with written word. And of course, it always helps if you can work in a little humor. It may only be five seconds long, but this dramatic clip of a shocked chipmunk still makes us chuckle.

3. Align Audience Attention on a Specific Call-to-Action

It may be the cinematographer’s favorite transition, but for your marketing video, you should never fade-to-black. If your audience has watched to the end of a video, don’t leave them with a blank screen. Focus their attention on a specific call to action pointing to related videos, stories, research, or white papers. Fading to black is a way of insinuating closure, or an ending, and while that works great on the big screen, you never want prospective clients to think of your message as final. Instead, you want to make potential customers curious or excited about engaging with you. Make the last frame of your video something bright and vivid, with the correct branding and contact info, so that even if their attention wanes and they focus on something else, people still see contact information when they revisit their screen or browser tab. This may seem obvious, but make sure to flash your contact info, especially your URL, throughout your promotional explainer video as well as at the end. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your audience is watching your video on your website or your YouTube channel. The idea behind video marketing is social sharing, so always assume that someone has stumbled upon your brand’s video without ever having heard of you before. Present your website address a minimum of three times to help with memorization.


“Viral videos aren’t just about being funny. They’re about identity creation.”

— Ricky Van Veen, Co-Founder of CollegeHumor and Head of Global Creative Strategy for Facebook


In the end, none of these tips will help if you don’t do your homework. Make sure to look at video trends across your industry and see what is engaging people in your category. Research the viewing habits of your target audience and be sure to tailor your content to their specific needs and interests. Most importantly, keep a close eye on the analytics of your own video content so you can see what works and what doesn’t, then make better content and production plans for future videos based on your findings.

Learn more about how to harness the power of the six-second story in your video marketing to engage prospects and inspire remarkable customer experiences. Download our free book: The TopRight Guide to Transformational Marketing.

02 May 16:25

5 Interesting Ways to Share Your Brand Story

by Jeremy Durant

Telling your brand story is more than just slapping dates together on an About Us page and throwing it up on the website with a stock image. Your brand story should be a major differentiator, something that sets you apart from your competition and compels your prospects to partner with you. It’s an opportunity to not talk about your products and services, but to talk about the real value of partnering with your firm.

When it comes to B2B branding and storytelling, there are a variety of ways to tell your brand story in a way that engages your target audience. Let’s look at 5 interesting ways to share your company’s brand story.

Reveal Your History

Your company was founded with purpose and that purpose was not simply to make money. The main purpose was to meet a need. An intriguing way to share your B2B brand story is by revealing the history behind the founding of your company. Answer questions like:

  • Why did we create this business?
  • What drove our success through the years?
  • How did we adapt to the market?
  • What needs did we focus on?
  • How did we expand or grow to meet the needs of more customers?

By building a story through the retelling of history, you draw your target audience in and reveal how the values of your company and your focus on the customer’s needs have driven your business. It’s a compelling method for letting your prospects know that they are the center of your business.

Showcase Your Founders

Many B2B companies are built on the drive, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit of a founder or founders. Particularly in the United States, we are obsessed with hearing the story of a successful entrepreneur who was driven by a passion, whether it’s a passion for innovation, customer service, technology, or knowledge. Telling your brand story by shining the spotlight on the founder(s) is a strategic way to craft an emotional connection with your audience. Answer questions such as:

  • What is their background/expertise?
  • What event(s) compelled them to found a company?
  • What was/is their vision for the company?
  • How do/did they interact with clients?
  • What are their main professional values?

Showcasing the founders of a company puts a human face behind a corporate entity and makes your brand relatable. This is particularly compelling if your company is older and the founders aren’t involved or running the brand any longer. This is essentially going back to basics and focusing on the genesis of your B2B brand.

Build a Timeline

There may be major events or accomplishments in your brand’s history that will resonate with your ideal target market. Weaving these events together is a great way to tell your brand story. A visual representation of the events arranged as a timeline is an easy to use, appealing way to convey the founding of your company, as well as major accomplishments or changes over the course of your brand’s history. Answer questions like:

  • What innovations did we bring to the industry?
  • Did we pioneer a technology or service?
  • What prestigious industry awards did we win?
  • What is our contribution to the industry?
  • Did we have significant periods of growth/change?

As you build your timeline (which doesn’t need to be extensive), think about the events or accomplishments that build credibility with your audience and establish you as the clear authority in the field. B2B branding should always include the audience as an active participant in the storytelling. Keep this in mind so you don’t alienate them.

Turn to Your Customers

If it wasn’t for your customers, you’d be out of business. This is a simple truth that you should always come back to in your branding and marketing. For many B2B firms, the customers are essential to building your brand. Their needs shape your service or product offerings. When it comes to the B2B industries, it’s less of a client-vendor relationship and more of a partnership. A cool way to share the story of your brand is to turn to your customers, their needs, and how your firm worked with them to provide solutions. Tell your story by telling the story of your customers. Answer questions such as:

  • What problems have we helped solve?
  • Are their specific cases where we have made a significant impact for a client(s)?
  • How do we help our clients be successful?
  • How do our values positively impact our clients?
  • What is our mission statement?
  • When has our service delivery showed exemplary results?
  • Where has customer service driven new processes and procedures?

Potential clients want to know what you bring to the table and what your brand is all about. A captivating brand story is told by real client partnerships and demonstrates innovative solutions.

Feature Your Employees

Your company may not have an extensive history, a ton of client case studies, or a memorable founder – but you always have your employees. Your employees are essentially your brand warriors. If they do a wonderful job of representing your brand and create loyal, dedicated clients – create your brand story around them, their attitudes, and their accomplishments. Focus on answering questions like:

  • How do our employees exemplify our brand?
  • What actions or attitudes do our clients rave about?
  • What positive feedback on employees have clients provided?
  • Why types of behaviors do our brand promote?
  • Who is our ideal employee and how do they represent the company?

Just like focusing on the founders, featuring your employees puts a human face on your organization. You are no longer a software company providing solutions to healthcare companies, you are a close partner who evaluates market challenges and provides customized solutions and a friendly face.

Your Brand Story

When it comes to B2B branding, your brand story is your chance to make a connection with your target audience and strengthen your relationship with your existing clients. It should not be an afterthought. It should be your answer to “Why should we work with you over company X?” Use your brand story to attract, engage, and compel. Be genuine and craft a brand story that your target market wants to read.

02 May 16:24

How to Successfully Plan, Execute, and Analyze Campaign Content

by Olivia Hoff

Brand Content Strategy

It’s never too early to begin planning and creating content for an upcoming marketing campaign. Did you just find out that your company is attending an event in six months? Don’t wait. Start planning and executing content for it today. In this blog we walk through the three stages of successfully planning, creating, and executing content for a marketing campaign.

Plan

  • Start with a high-level timeline. Map out major events such as conferences, speaking opportunities, product announcements, or anything else that you already have on your radar for the whole year. Once your timeline is complete, you should be able to align content with these events. This should provide clarity around the types of content you will need (social, blog, article, etc.) and the topics that you will be writing to. Looking beyond a monthly strategy is important to get everyone on board and allow enough time to plan before the event happens. This communication is especially important when you aren’t the content writer. In an agency setting, like at Ironistic, we use shared workspaces with our clients in order to coordinate these plans and the content development. Tools to help create these workspaces include Google Drive or Asana.
  • Catalog proposed content projects. Cataloging content according to topic helps when pairing certain content creation with the content experts needed within the company. Giving that content expert plenty of time to prepare and get you the necessary content is key when preparing.
  • Consider the data. Make sure there is a plan to determine and track goals and conversions through Google Analytics for each piece of content developed. Whether it be a press release, white paper, case study, or other, understanding how much traffic each piece of content is bringing in (and where the traffic is coming from) will help you evaluate its value to your audience. When sharing content across different platforms, you can use Google’s Campaign URL Builder to track custom campaigns that visitors should be identified with. You can also implement event tracking code on your website to identify when specific pieces of content are downloaded or accessed through various CTAs on your website. Read more about how to set up event tracking in Google Analytics from our previous post, Event Tracking. So Easy, Your Mom Could Do It.

Execute

  • Carry out the plan you created, but remain flexible as content needs to be timely so last minute or unplanned changes and requests are inevitable.
  • Utilize your channels. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when pushing out a piece of content is not promoting it through multiple channels. Experiment with different channels such as a blog, social media, press release platforms, or YouTube.
  • Give content a new format. Apply your content to different formats so that you reach all audiences, such as taking a blog post and talking about the content on a webinar, recording that webinar and posting it as a video, and then building a webpage to host all of the information in one central location.

Analyze and Optimize

  • Study your analytics. Look at the data you collect and then make sure to follow up and engage with your stakeholders to get feedback. What were the ups and downs of the campaign? What did your stakeholders think worked well or not so well? Look at the lead-to-conversion ratios to nail down the ROI on the campaign.
  • Create a report around the campaign and content pieces. Boiling it down to the facts and outcomes makes it easier to showcase your performance and validate your work.
  • Keep the content going. Once you publish the last piece of content for the campaign, your job isn’t over. Continue to maintain the content you worked to develop and promote it continuously.

In general, keep your customer in mind. Who are they and what kind of content are they looking for from you in each campaign? Start early and plan out the details in advance, getting key stakeholders involved as early as possible to ensure everyone is on board. Be adaptable and be brave. Start with whatever data you have and go from there. Prove what you are doing is working with the content you start with and that there is a clear correlation between your content and the return your company is seeing on that investment.

02 May 16:23

Which words in Email Subject lines drive the best response?

by Expert commentator

What data science taught us about 211 email subject line phrases

Once you click the send button, your email subject line is the most important part of your campaign. This is a fact.

Think about your own experience in the inbox. Mine is something like this:

  1. Look at inbox
  2. Look at sender name
  3. Look at subject line
  4. Make a decision whether or not to open it and read the content

Your sender name is important as it conveys your brand value. But it’s not something you can change easily.

Your subject line is important because testing and optimising them drives response rates like nothing else.

But, there’s a common problem with subject lines.

Dotmailer research reveals 26% of email marketer’s time is spent on email creative, 21% on deployment, and only 8% on testing. And, over 70% of email marketers don't split test their subject lines very often.

Here’s the thing: if people don’t open your email, there’s a 0% chance they’ll see your creative.

It’s clear that more attention needs to be paid to subject lines. However, subject lines as a discipline lacks rigorous scientific and statistical investigation.

Research to reveal the importance of  'subject lines' in emails

I believe that there is a science to subject lines. So I did the research to prove it.

Methodology

I took a random, anonymised sample of 700 million emails from phrasee.co, the subject line tester and generator. The data is from a collection of online retailers spanning numerous industries. It is mostly from the UK and the USA, with small amounts of data from other Anglophonic countries.

Simply looking at past data is myopic and risky. It assumes that tomorrow will be the same as yesterday. This is where most subject line analysis falls short.

I then applied some advanced statistics. I’ll spare you the gory details but, in a nutshell, I created a time-decayed Bayesian probability model. Then, I ran billions of Markov chain Monte Carlo simulations to generate a huge amount predictive data. This allowed me to take a data set and extrapolate it to a much larger sample of outcomes. It also controlled for random variance, which makes the end results more robust. It also takes into account interdependence of phrases, not just binary outcomes.

From here, I normalised the results and calculated a quality score for individual phrases. The quality score is derived from a combination of response metrics, time-decayed results, and external factors. It’s called the Phrasee Score™.

What is a Phrasee Score™?

Phrasee Scores™ are statistics that tell you how well (or poorly) a given phrase will perform in an email subject line. They are based upon our training data and predictive algorithms.

Scores range from 1 to 100. The higher the score the more reliably a phrase drives response.

Bear this in mind though: a high Phrasee Score™ doesn’t tell you that the given phrase will always deliver solid results for you. What it does tell you is that a phrase has above-average results with low variability. A low score may have good results at times, but the variability is higher. It’s therefore less likely to be the causal variable of increased response.

Phrasee Scores™ are an indication of quality. They will help you decide what to use in your subject lines. But they’re not silver bullets – there’s a lot more to subject line science than that. To understand more about how Phrasee uses this score to generate subject lines, then read on.

Results of the analysis

I tested out 211 common phrases used in email subject lines that are focused on selling.

For the sake of keeping this blog post under a million words, I’ll abridge the results. You can download the email subject lines report.

Key findings from the subject line analysis report

I’ll break it up into a few subsections to aide readability and comprehension. I’ll show the top 5 and bottom 5 from a selection of the categories I analysed.

  • Action words

These are call-to-action phrases that are intended to elicit a specific behaviour.

cta words

  • Questions

These are subject lines formed as a question, checking specific inquisitive structures.

Subject lines as question - scored research

  • Sale phrases

These are phrases that relate to a specific offer, discount or sale.

sales phrase - scored research

  • Superlatives

These are noun or verb modifiers that elicit emotional response from email recipients

superlatives words scored research

  • Urgency

These are phrases that use time or stock defined scarcity as an action driver. Clearly, anything to do with Midnight isn’t working too well.

urgency words - scored research

I analysed much more as well: In total I analysed 211 phrases. Beyond the Phrasee Score™  and also calculated open, click and click-to-open means and quartile metrics. You can download the full email subject line report

Key email marketing takeaways

From doing this analysis, I learned the following things:

  1. There is a science to subject lines
  2. Testing subject lines is key to learning what works
  3. Advanced statistics can teach you a lot about subject lines
  4. Don’t use the word 'midnight'

What are your experiences?

Phrasee uses machine learning to optimise your email subject lines. free trial of phrasee.co and benefit from subject line science in action.

Thanks to Parry Malm for sharing his advice and opinions in this post. Parry is CEO of Phrasee, and President of agency Howling Mad. He has worked with countless brands and media outlets to help them optimise their online results. He’s one of the world’s leading experts on email marketing. He started his career coding middleware for CRM software, then sent out millions of emails for global brands, before running the strategy department for an ESP. He holds a BBA (1st) in Marketing & Statistics and can probably beat you in an Excel-off. On weekends, he helps wayward youths see the error of their ways through the magic of interpretive dance. You can follow the company on Twitter  or LinkedIn.

02 May 16:22

How to Run a Sustainable Writing Business (Where the Backbone of Success Is Simply … You)

by Stefanie Flaxman

"Knowing the business of writing and content marketing gives you an advantage over other (directionless) writers." – Stefanie Flaxman

You may love to write.

You may get a lot of positive feedback on your writing.

And you may have even picked up many great writing gigs over the years, solidifying your status as a professional writer.

But something is missing.

It’s difficult to balance writing for your existing clients and attracting new clients. Consequently, your writing income varies at different times throughout the year and the work you love to do never quite feels sustainable.

TET: the backbone of a sustainable writing business

Whether you’re just starting your writing business, or you’ve been building it for a while and are hoping to make it more financially secure, I have 15 tips that support a healthy, productive solopreneur venture.

To make the advice manageable, I’ll list five tips under three important categories for anyone working for themselves: Technology, Education, Tools (TET).

The success of a writing business depends on so much more than your ability to write.

Educating yourself on the business of writing and content marketing gives you a huge advantage over other (directionless) writers.

My TET Talk below — not to be confused with a TED Talk 😉 — will show you how the right knowledge combined with the unique value you offer clients can create a powerhouse business that allows you the freedom to be yourself and do work you care about.

Technology

Technology makes most modern writing businesses possible.

And getting set up with the right digital services doesn’t require a ton of technical knowledge. Instead, this section will focus on core business logistics that depend on some sort of technology.

My goal is to help you feel thankful for easy access to these solutions, rather than overwhelmed by a bunch of new things to learn.

As you’ll see, the main components you need are pretty simple.

1. Set up your internet, email, and phone accounts

We’re really starting at the beginning here, but I don’t want to skip the basics.

Intermittent, possibly not secure, internet access at a coffee shop just doesn’t cut it when you’re ready to get serious about your writing business.

Having a reliable internet connection at a place where you can always work — whether that’s at home or an office space — will give you peace of mind that you can communicate with your clients whenever you need to.

I also suggest having an email address and phone number for your business.

While you’re passionate about your work, separating business from personal communications is one step that can help prevent burnout.

Rather than having your entire day be one mix of business and personal tasks, you can get in the habit of managing business and personal items at different times.

2. Invest in hardware and software

This one is all about asking yourself questions to find out what you need to do your job well.

You can have a first-priority list with absolute necessities and a second-priority list for possible additions in the future.

To create your first-priority list, you may ask yourself:

  • Is my computer able to perform every function needed for my business?
  • Does the camera still work if a client requests a video call? What about my microphone and speakers?
  • Is the writing software I use sufficient? How about my accounting software?

To create your second-priority list, you may ask yourself:

3. Build a beautiful, secure website

If you were setting up a brick-and-mortar business, you’d be checking out real estate at different locations.

One of the perks of a digital writing business is that you don’t necessarily need to rent or buy a physical space in order for you to do your work.

What you do need, however, is a beautiful, secure website that’s fast and easy to use. Then you’ll have a professional place to welcome prospects.

4. Prioritize your social media accounts

To complement your digital home, you’ll have social media accounts.

But attempting to have a presence on every site can be time-consuming and distracting.

Find out where your prospects hang out online and focus your social media efforts on those sites. Ultimately, you’ll share content on those platforms that will bring visitors back to your website.

5. Select a payment processor

What’s the best way for clients to send you money?

You don’t want to use a system that’s super easy for you but a pain for your clients, or vice versa.

Envision how your ideal scenario would play out once someone wants to hire you and consider using digital payment processors like PayPal, Braintree, or Stripe to make that your standard procedure.

More on outlining your terms of service and payment policy below.

Education

Yesterday, Sonia announced that we’ll be reopening our Certified Content Marketer training program to new students soon.

"Apply to join Copyblogger's list of recommended writers." – Sonia Simone, Chief Content Officer

She wrote:

“Making a living as a writer isn’t easy. Finding new clients, managing your business as a business, positioning yourself to rise above the pennies-per-word freelance treadmill.

The Certification program exists to reward good writers with more clients, more revenue, more stability, and more respect.

We also, of course, reap the benefits of having a highly qualified group of professional writers we can point to when businesses tell us, ‘We’re sold on content strategy, but we can’t find anyone who can implement it well.’”

If you want to apply to become Copyblogger Certified, don’t forget to sign up at the end of this post to be the first to find out when you can get in the program.

A dedication to ongoing education is crucial for professional writers who are business owners. Let’s look at entrepreneurial actions you’ll need to learn about and perform.

1. Draft a budget

This is another one that helps you separate business activities from your personal life.

How much money do you need to run your business?

When you set aside funds for business expenses, you’ll have a realistic picture of what you can spend money on now and what you might need to hold off on until a later time. Then you’ll have an idea of how much money you need to save for certain items you eventually want to invest in.

Review your budget on a regular basis, since you may need to adjust how much money you spend on certain things.

For example, if an emergency expense comes up, you may have to borrow money from the amount you typically spend on social media ads, and pause those ads until you’re able to replenish the social media ads portion of your budget.

2. Determine your prices

Every project you work on will have different factors that affect how much you charge for your work, but the right type of preparation makes negotiating fees with clients much easier.

Check out our article 5 Stress-Free Steps for Pricing Your Services by Beth Hayden.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Perform research and determine your hourly rate
  • Estimate how many hours the project will take
  • Add some margin to cover additional expenses, overhead, and surprises
  • Communicate the price clearly to your client
  • Track your hours and adjust future pricing accordingly

3. Outline your terms of service and payment policy

While “terms of service and payment policy” may sound like boring business details, I consider them a fun opportunity for you to stand out.

If you want to have an exceptional service business, you cannot casually respond to any form of business communication or informally agree to any business transaction.

Check out my article How to Craft Winning Pitches for Your Service Business.

You’ll learn:

  • How to become a master of assessing, communicating, and managing expectations
  • The “service business as go-to collaborator” model
  • How to present terms of service that help you convert prospects

4. Become the Editor-in-Chief of your website

You knew this one was going to be here.

Remember that beautiful, secure website that you built? That’s your publishing company, so make sure you manage it like an Editor-in-Chief.

My article Why Content Marketers Need Editors will show you how to become your own content editor and you can pick up blog editing essentials in 10 Modern Editing Tips for Meticulous Bloggers.

5. Avoid this common marketing mistake

I’m especially enthused about sharing this one with you because it will save you a lot of time.

Many new service providers (myself included, back in the day) create marketing materials that try to convince someone that they need a certain service.

For example, writers would speak to someone “who doesn’t know they need a professional writer” and try to persuade that person into thinking that hiring a professional writer is better than writing your own content and copy.

It’s a reasonable starting place for business newbies, and not a terrible mistake, but think about creating marketing materials for those who are already looking for a professional writer.

Prospects who already value professional writers are much easier to convert to clients.

Your job is convincing them that you’re the right person to hire. You don’t have to first convince them that they need someone like you.

Tools

Our final section will help you with day-to-day activities.

These are practices that help you become more creative, productive, and confident.

Small changes to your routine can make a big difference when something unexpected happens and you have to roll with the punches.

Let’s roll …

1. Have an idea notebook

You’ll write down way more ideas than you’ll actually use, but get in the habit of documenting your thoughts about:

  • Content topics
  • Marketing experiments
  • Potential business partners
  • Social media communities
  • Books you want to read
  • Your ideal clients
  • Extra value you can provide

The pages can look messy and only make sense to you, but the notebook is a resource you can open if you ever feel stuck and don’t know where you should put your effort next.

2. Break down tasks into lists

I wish I could sell lists as my own product called “Overwhelm Begone!”

There are often many different parts to a project or many different steps you need to complete before you can finish a task or achieve a goal.

My simple method to immediately avoid overwhelm is listing out every step that needs to happen. If you need to delegate tasks to other people, map out their roles in a sublist.

I include even the tiniest tasks because once they’re written down, they’re out of my mind and I can use that portion of brainpower for something else.

If you only had one thing to do at all times, I understand that breaking down that one thing into a list would be unnecessary, but when you have a lot going on, lists help ensure that everything gets done properly.

3. Use systems and processes

Like lists, systems and processes help you swiftly take care of business.

Here are some examples:

  • A spreadsheet can help you monitor the stages of every project you have or organize your content marketing ideas.
  • Your email policy can inform clients upfront about how quickly you respond to emails, so you can prioritize your workload.
  • If you have trouble remembering to do a weekly task, assign it to a certain day of the week and stick to that routine.

4. Create a sample workday

Working for yourself gives you a lot of freedom, but it’s also stressful if you don’t manage your time properly. It will feel like you’re working all the time, and you’ll lack that balance I mentioned earlier.

So, if you keep the items you need to tackle on any given workday in mind, it’s a reminder that there’s a time to hustle and a time for leisure later in the day.

Your sample workday may include:

  • Responding to work emails
  • Writing for practice
  • Writing for clients
  • Meeting with clients
  • Reading blogs about writing, content marketing, and your industry (if you write for a specific niche)

5. Filter out unsolicited criticism

They mean well, but sometimes they’re just mean.

I’m talking about the people you interact with who will make negative comments about your professional writing services. You know, the ones who know nothing about your industry or actually being a professional writer.

I don’t want to get too snarky, because a lot of them likely just want to protect you.

It’s difficult for many people to understand how writers make a living, so it’s a lot easier to discourage a writer from going down a path of uncertainty.

But you’re smarter than that. You know you don’t have to do this alone, and you don’t have to go down a path of uncertainty. You can learn how to establish the writing business you want by learning how to implement content strategy.

Now’s the time: get in line to sign up for our Certified Content Marketer training.


Are you a writer who wants to become a Certified Content Marketer?

Our Certified Content Marketer training helps you take your writing business to the next level. Add your email address to our waiting list below to be the first to hear about when we reopen the program to new students.

Find out when our Certified Content Marketer training program reopens:

The post How to Run a Sustainable Writing Business (Where the Backbone of Success Is Simply … You) appeared first on Copyblogger.

02 May 16:22

Why Influencer Marketing Should Be Part of Every Marketing Mix

by Jay Baer

Why Influencer Marketing Should Be Part of Every Marketing Mix

We’re all consumers here, so let’s do a little thought experiment together. Think about the last few things you purchased or new spots in town you investigated. Do you remember how you heard about those products or places initially? Did any of the information you used in your decision originate from family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, or celebrities?

If so, consider yourself INFLUENCED.

Word of mouth (WOM) isn’t anything new, and it’s certainly not a bad thing; as long as we’ve been conducting transactions of goods and services, we’ve expressed opinions and shared experiences. “Influencer marketing” is simply the modernized version of word of mouth, selectively enhanced by product placement originating from a trusted source (an influencer).

Today, many brands are using influencer marketing as a powerful amplification layer for their social and content initiatives.

Word of Mouth is Dead, Long Live Word of Mouth

“Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused.” True words, indeed, but not a new circumstance. In fact, that quote is from Dr. Samuel Johnson in his The Idler essays—published in 1759!

The consumer world has become inundated, and we’ve adapted by turning off our attention—and tuning up our bullshit meter. With the barrage of ads we’re exposed to each day, it’s not surprising that we trust people more than logos. Nielsen studies show that we trust people about twice as much as we trust brands and organizations.

Do You Need Influencer Marketing?

Yes, you do. “But, Jay,” you ask doubtfully, “how can you KNOW I need it?” I know you need it, because you’re already doing it. Influencers already exist in your customer base.

These individuals are talking about your brand at this very moment. They are creating content through texts and photos and Tweets and Snaps. They are introducing new people to your business. They are advocating on your behalf and defending you during those times you have to hug your haters.

Formalizing relationships with existing and new influencers makes good business sense beyond curating great UGC and strengthening your brand’s reputation. According to consulting company Tomoson, brands are seeing average returns of $6.50 in revenue per $1 spent on influencer marketing. That’’ll work.

There are even more things that online influencers can do for you and additional ways to measure influencer marketing ROI, but I think you get the picture.

Know Your Influencer

Marketers commonly identify three types of influencers based on the number of followers they command and what value they may bring, but don’t fall into the trap of assuming that a bigger audience equates to a more “valuable” influencer. Even individuals with smaller followings can contribute to a winning influencer strategy and should be considered in your marketing mix.

Before launching any campaigns, consider both the tangible stakes of cost and time as well as the intangibles such as trust and reputation. The most successful brand-influencer partnerships are those that define goals, determine metrics, outline expectations, and communicate results.

Not every individual will be a good fit for your brand, so be strategic about with whom you work (and how). Influencers can be engaged under either paid and/or unpaid (“earned”) arrangements—the choice may change depending on business budget, timeline, and philosophy. As expected, there are both benefits and challenges to earned and paid influencer marketing, but no matter what, the best possible scenario is to find the right influencers and build relationships BEFORE you need them.

Finders, Keepers

Services including Insightpool and GroupHigh exist to help businesses efficiently identify and contact potential influencer partners. Criteria such as industry, audience size, content expertise, and more can be quickly matched with results displayed through user-friendly dashboards.

If you don’t want to perform outreach yourself, there are even influencer “talent agencies” like Viral Nation and IZEA who can assemble a custom social task force for you. Talk about some instant marketing super powers!

Whether a brand hires influencers via a service or earns them through organic interaction, what matters is this: “At the heart of both paid and earned influencer campaigns is creating long-lasting relationships.” After all, a successful brand-influencer relationship can have overarching effects beyond supporting a one-time campaign. It’s worth investing the time and effort to nurture long-term benefits.


At the heart of both paid and earned influencer campaigns is creating long-lasting relationships.
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Above and Beyond

Through the trust we extend to those in our circles of influence, we’re able to learn new information, solve existing problems, and discover new joys. That makes word of mouth a very powerful thing, when you think about it. Used selectively and managed correctly, influencer marketing can be a win-win-win for brand, influencer, and customer alike. As civil rights activist Andrew Young gently reminds, “Influence is like a savings account. The less you use it, the more you’ve got.”

Think about how you could use influence marketing to reach your customers, and let us know what successes and challenges you’ve been finding. If you want to learn more about the advantages of earned and paid influencer marketing and how influencer-based advertising can help scale your marketing efforts, download “Paid and Earned: The Two Sides of Influencer Marketing.”

This post is part of a paid sponsorship between Insightpool and Convince & Convert.

Get a weekly dose of the trends and insights you need to keep you ON top, from the strategy team at Convince & Convert. Sign up for the Convince & Convert ON email newsletter.

02 May 16:22

Brand Growth Requires A Full-Funnel Approach

by Emmanuel Probst

Brand Growth Requires A Full-Funnel Approach

While attending the Los Angeles Digital Summit last month, I realized that most marketers obsess about lower-funnel metrics. Only a few presenters talked about brand awareness and preference. And the ones who did took their audience through “Branding 101” because many attendees don’t pay attention to upper-funnel activity. Neither presenters nor attendees are to blame. With the average CMO tenure at 42 months, down six months in two years as a backdrop, marketers can often see their future in the analysis of what gets measured. Investors are riveted to quarterly results, prompting top executives to focus on monthly revenue, marketing executives to report on weekly activity, and digital executives to tweak tomorrow’s tactic based on what happened yesterday.

Yes, bidding on the best keywords and implementing the most sophisticated retargeting strategy is a waste if your target audience does not know and value your brand. That is, a brand that people recognize as meaningful, salient and different. As the saying goes, the best place to hide a dead body is on page 2 of Google. But your brand will always appear on page one for consumers that search for it, hence the importance of brand awareness.

Why Everybody Loves Lower-Funnel Metrics

First, part of the attraction of lower-funnel metrics is that they are easy to understand. A few hours of training are sufficient to master Click-Through-Rate, Cost-Per-Click and Cost-Per-Acquisition, among other self-explanatory metrics. Also, people love using TLAs (three-letter acronyms) because they make you look cool and educated. I’m making a killing with my new RTB strategy! I reduced CPMs by 15% and CTR is up 12%, bringing my CPO and CPA down by 5%! Awesome!* Last but not least, lower-funnel metrics are treated as an immediate measure of success. You will know within hours if people you retargeted converted, and within minutes the impact of your latest keywords buy.

*Real-Time Bidding, Cost-Per-Mille, Click-Through-Rate, Cost-Per-Opportunity, Cost-Per-Acquisition

The Evolution Of The Consumer Journey

With digital marketing came the proliferation of real-time, precise metrics. But the multiplicity of screens and platforms in the digital realm also made the consumer journey considerably more complex. According to Serena Erlhich, Business Wire, there are now 22-25 touch points between your brand and your consumers before they buy your product. The typical customer path to conversion includes content marketing, social, and display advertising all served across Connected TV, desktop, mobile, tablet and offline.

It’s time to leave behind the buzzwords and three-letter acronyms. By focusing on clicks and conversion, you merely optimize a tactic to sell your product. Lower-funnel metrics, such as last-click and last-touch, are misleading because consumers have likely been exposed to your brand and product 20-23 times beforehand.

To develop a strategy for your brand, you need to map out the full customer journey like the one pictured above, from the consumer’s thoughts and feelings through his or her repurchase and recommendation. This strategy must be supported by a measurement program that allows you to measure and optimize your Return-on-Ad-Spend throughout the marketing funnel. That is, your measurement program should account for the impact of each and every brand/advertising impression on the outcome. Best-in-class programs rely on brand-infused Multi-Touch-Attribution (MTA), a process that combines attitudinal and behavioral data with statistical models to quantify the contribution of each touch point on the outcome. For example, your MTA model might reveal that retargeting accounts for 10% in the purchase decision, with display contributing 30%, native 15%, Connected TV 5% and social 40%.

Analyzing such results will allow you to optimize audience models, creatives and media plans. To take your measurement program one step further, you can implement predictive models to learn and respond to changes in consumer behavior in real-time. Ultimately, your goal should be to create not one but multiple customer journey maps and to convey the same brand values in the upper funnel, that are marketed through hundreds if not thousands of audience segments in the middle and lower funnel.

Reflecting on my most successful clients, their strategies are comprised of at least two layers. They combine an “always on” campaign to drive brand awareness with ad hoc product campaigns to drive tactical outcomes tied to events and promotions. Further, they always implement a comprehensive measurement program that allows them to optimize Return-on-Ad-Spend in the short run while improving brand health for the long run. Now I just need to come up with a three-letter acronym to describe these programs.

In Progress: The 5th Un-Conference – Marketing’s Only Problem Solving Event. May 1st – 3rd, 2017 West Hollywood, California

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02 May 16:15

What Is “Sales Enablement”?

by Andrew Moravick

What organization can say no to “sales enablement”?

Who in the C-Suite would ever look you in the eye and say, “We don’t find sales to be all that important. Thanks, but no thanks?”

Such is the beauty of the term “sales enablement.” Enabling sales is something every organization should do. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion around what it means to actually “enable sales.”

Defining “Sales Enablement”

To be useful as a concept, “sales enablement” should be clearly recognizable and easily defined. Towards that end, in The State of Sales Enablement: Eliminating Ambiguity, Aberdeen defines the practice of sales enablement as:

A strategic alignment of resources and actions to produce effective, efficient sales operations.

While this definition is still somewhat far-reaching, it sets clear parameters for sales enablement. Specifically, it calls for anyone doing “sales enablement” to answer two questions:

  1. What resources do effective sales operations require?
  2. What actions best support effective sales operations?

Building on this simple framework for understanding sales enablement, sales leaders can more easily choose appropriate metrics for evaluating the success of sales enablement initiatives.

Resources allocated to sales enablement can be analyzed in terms of ROI and profitability: Did the resources provided produce measurable (and, positive!) returns?

Tactical actions prescribed for sales enablement can be analyzed in terms of compliance and effectiveness: Were these actions carried out, and if so, did they work as intended? If not carried out, or effective, why not?

Categories of Sales Enablement

Of course, even organizations that share the same definition of sales enablement can and do execute sales enablement efforts in different ways. That’s why, in addition to a definition, it’s worthwhile to clearly categorize sales enablement efforts.

Based on what we see in the market, Aberdeen Group has identified three categories of sales enablement:

  • Content-based sales enablement: Providing sellers with targeted collateral and sales assets that enable effective sales conversations with buyers.
  • Technology-based sales enablement: Providing sales reps with tools and technology that enable improved sales performance.
  • Training / education-based sales enablement: A process whereby sales reps are trained, educated, or given access to knowledge that enables them to sell more effectively.

Among Aberdeen survey respondents, 52% practice content-based sales enablement, 40% practice technology-based sales enablement, and 38% practice training / education-based sales enablement. Naturally, this means there’s some organizations practicing multiple types of sales enablement.

The fact that, even within the same organization, sales enablement can take on different forms, may be one reason for the confusion around the term. What one person may call sales enablement, pure and simple, another may understand as a single form of it (content-based, for example).

All-In Sales Enablement

For organizations practicing all three forms of sales enablement – what I’ll call, “All-In Sales Enablement” – the value of doing so is apparent. As we can see in Figure 1, these organizations fully outpace their competition when it comes to sales performance.

Figure 1: “All-In” Sales Enablement Practitioners See Better Results

sales_enablement_performance

Is your organization practicing “all-in” sales enablement? Or, are you still playing around with this or that flavor of it?

If you fall in the latter camp, what’s your hesitation?

To find out how your sales enablement efforts stack up, read the full report: The State of Sales Enablement: Eliminating Ambiguity.

Image Source (Creative Commons): The U.S. Army.

02 May 16:14

How to Create the Ultimate Marketing Plan

by Digital Marketing Depot
Four out of five B2B buyers start their journey with a web search. Nearly three quarters of the buying process is complete by the time a prospect is ready to engage with your sales team. With customers now in control, how do you create an effective marketing plan that resonates with target...

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
02 May 16:11

How Google Killed 1 Million Sales Jobs -- And How to Keep Yours

by Bsignorelli@hubspot.com (Brian Signorelli)

google-killed-sales-jobs-compressor-289188-edited.jpg

In 2015, Forrester predicted that one million of the 4.5 million B2B sales professionals in existence will be out of a job by 2020. The firm explained there are currently four types of B2B salespeople.

s4linfographic2.pngSource: Sales for Life

Order Takers: Reps who sell simple solutions in simple buying environments. According to Forrester, they’ll see a 37% decline, which translates to 600,000 jobs lost.

Explainers: Reps who sell more complex solutions in a relatively simple buying environment. They’ll see a 27% decline, or 400,000 jobs lost.

Navigators: Reps who sell fairly simple solutions in complex buying environments. They’ll see a 17% decline, or 150,000 jobs lost.

Consultants: Reps who sell complex products in complex buying environments. They’ll see a 10% increase, or 50,000 jobs gained.

Will these jobs vanish immediately? Not necessarily. Forrester Research principal analyst Mary Shea, PhD, argues that 62% of salespeople in 2020 will still be Order Takers or Explainers.

I agree, as the window of time is too narrow to see substantive swings. However, you will be hard-pressed to find an Order Taker, Explainer, or Navigator that doesn’t want to fight hand over fist for one of the 550,000 Consultant sales roles that are expected to exist by 2020. For those already sitting in the Consultant role, watch out -- you have a million people gunning for your job in the next few years.

But let’s back up for a minute. Before we get to the future, it’s instructive to examine the past events that led to this state of affairs.

How Did We Get Here?

In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google with the mission of “organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible and useful.”

Google gave people the ability to find information on their own terms and on their own time. Marketers needed to win back the attention of the consumers flocking to Google (and abandoning more traditional marketing channels), so they turned to digital content marketing.

This shift didn’t happen overnight -- it was a radical change in the way the world consumed information. If you look at the trend line for the search term “Content Marketing” from 2004 to 2017, you’ll see it began taking off around 2012.

Google Trends for “Content Marketing”: 2004-2017

content-marketing-google-trends.png

More interesting still, global spend on content marketing fully surpassed $100 billion globally in 2012. It sped up even more between 2012 and 2016, ballooning up to $200 billion.

Global Content Marketing Spend 2009-2019 (Forecast)

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Source: PQ Media

Once search became the primary method people used to answer their questions, businesses had to stay relevant, helpful, and involved by making their websites and blogs their customers' primary resources -- not salespeople.

Google vs. the Traditional Salesperson

Today, content marketing supplants the need for Order taker, Explainer, and Navigator salespeople, which is why these jobs are on the decline.

These jobs aren’t gone quite yet; however, content marketing provides virtually endless access to information to buyers -- and simultaneously gives them the ability to ignore any information they want. In other words, most prospects no longer need a sales rep to make a buying decision.

We can see this behavior reflected by hundreds of metrics. Here are just five compelling statistics:

  1. Buyers are circumventing reps for as much as 60% of their buying discovery process. In the next few years, they’re predicted to wait until 80% of the decision making process is complete before interacting with Sales.
  2. Only 1% of cold calls lead to booked meetings.
  3. There are an average of 6.8 decision makers in any B2B sale -- more than ever before.
  4. Nearly 40% of all buying processes are “blown up” internally before a rep is engaged.
  5. 84% of buyers say the sales cycle takes longer than expected. 

Where Do We Go Next?

I can’t predict the future, but I can develop a few hypotheses of what will happen from here.

Scenario #1: Rise of the Bots

In the first scenario, companies develop a breakthrough technology that enables buyers to engage with them in the absence of a human. Some companies are already on, or headed down, this path. They offer chat platforms to businesses to communicate with their website visitors. Most company websites receive hundreds if not thousands of daily visitors -- but they don’t have anyone to engage these potential customers in real time.

This space already includes large and rapidly growing businesses (for example, Intercom has raised over $100 million from 29 investors). I think these companies can -- and likely will -- do more. With natural language processing, AI will be capable of understanding questions from website visitors or anticipating what they’re likely looking for and serving them the right piece of information at the right time. AI may even be able to “qualify” a website visitor and take them all the way through a sales process to the point of sale.

This model probably won’t work for complex or sensitive enterprise solutions, but it could have an enormous impact for small and medium-size businesses (SMBs).

Scenario #2: Data-Driven Review Sites With a Recommendation Component

In this future, someone finds an efficient way to help buyers sift through endless piles of information. We’re starting to see solutions like this come to life in the software industry: Sites like TrustRadius, G2Crowd, and Software Advice provide verified customer reviews and feedback for a wide swath of products. Notably, G2Crowd has expanded its service to include reviews for business services too, from translation services and lawyers to marketing agencies.

These sites provide buyers with trustworthy, credible perspectives. But resources in this category can’t completely answer the information overload issue because they are contributing to the wealth of content -- not helping a buyer cut through it. They also don’t solve for the underlying problem: Buyers don’t always know what they’re looking for or that they’re even solving the right pain point.

These sites would provide more value by analyzing a breadth of business metrics and recommending the right solution or solutions. Perhaps a company like Databox or Tableau could partner with companies like TrustRadius and G2Crowd to provide data-driven software and service recommendations.

Scenario #3: A Reinvented, Reimagined, and Commission-Less Sales Force

In the final scenario, companies reinvent the role of the sales function, transforming sellers into hybrid consultants who are compensated on new customer success metrics rather than closed-won business.

I think this is unlikely to be adopted far and wide in the short to medium-term. In the long-term, it’s possible -- but it will only come to fruition after the vast majority of the business world determines there is no longer a sustainable, profitable path to growth using traditional sales methods. We’re not there yet, but there are some companies already experimenting with this model.

How to Survive -- Even Thrive -- in This New World

If you’re one of Forrester’s three “non-Consultant” types of salespeople, you have two choices: Do nothing and ride out the impending transition, or get ahead of this change and learn consultative sales skills.

For those interested in the latter, HubSpot offers a free certification on consultative selling. There are also a number of excellent books on this topic; I recommend The Challenger Sale.

You should also request your sales manager’s help and feedback as you change your selling strategy.

If you’re a sales trainer or sales coach, shifting your services to focus on consultative selling may or may not be right for you. The decision to expand into these services (assuming you’re not already offering them) depends on the maturity of your business, your current client base, and the personal plans you have for your company in the coming years (for example, I don’t recommend making this switch if you’re about to retire or sell your business.)

Alternatively, if your clients sell moderately to highly complex products or services, especially in B2B, and you don't already provide these services, consider adding them to your portfolio. Your best bet is partnering with another consultant or coach who already offers these services or a business with a well-established consultative sales playbook such as Sandler, Corporate Executive Board (now Gartner), or HubSpot.

If you’re looking for deep training and hands-on support, you might also consider becoming a HubSpot Sales Partner. This program is designed specifically for businesses like yours interested in expanding into consultative sales services.

What’s your opinion? Is the sales profession racing towards the information-overload “cliff,” has it already run over that cliff, or is there no cliff to speak of?

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02 May 16:10

The Biggest Thing Content Marketers Forget About Sales and Conversions

by Randy Milanovic

If you are in the business of producing blog posts, videos, and social content to improve your bottom line, then you’re probably used to watching these key metrics: visits, conversions, and sales.

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It’s always smart to know which way the numbers are pointing, of course, but it’s also easy to get so focused on these details that you miss the bigger picture. Specifically, looking solely at figures related to sales and conversions can inadvertently cause them to decrease.

I’ll let that sink in for a second…

That’s because the sale you’re measuring is really the result of lots of smaller conversions that have already taken place, and in a certain order. To help you see how this plays out, and why it matters so much for your content marketing campaigns, let’s look at the chain of events that has to happen before you win a new sales opportunity…

First, You Have to Sell Someone on Visiting Your Website

Simply putting your content online isn’t enough. That’s especially true today, when more marketers than ever are competing for the attention of the audience you want to attract.

Knowing that, every piece of content you put online needs to be properly optimized for search engines, social media, and content consumers. Otherwise, you don’t really stand a chance of generating any conversions because no one will see your marketing messages in the first place.

Next, You Must Sell Them on Viewing Your Content

Your customers don’t look at every blog or social post that’s put in front of them, just as you don’t have time to read everything that comes your way.

We all make quick decisions about where to devote our attention that are based on instant impressions. Your titles, headings, and images must make viewers feel as if they can’t afford to ignore them. In other words, your first sale is in convincing people that your content is worth their time to take a look at.

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Then, You Need to Sell Them on Your Credibility

Many marketers assume an increase in traffic will lead to a bump in conversions, but that’s not necessarily the case. If you don’t have credibility as a marketer, no one will take you seriously.

When it comes to establishing yourself as a reliable source of ideas and solutions, it’s hard to beat stats, references, expert testimonials, and customer reviews. Readers and viewers want to trust you before they will contact you.

And Finally, You Have to Sell a Reader or Viewer on the Next Step

With all of these other “conversions” out of the way, you still have to convince a prospect that it’s in their best interests to take the next step. That usually means offering them something of real value.

Whatever call to action you put in place to close your article or video, make sure it’s compelling enough to drive viewers to action. Otherwise, all the effort you put into creating your content, making it visible, and establishing your credibility will have been wasted.

You can generate conversions from your content marketing campaigns, but only if you are able to convince buyers to follow a series of steps like this beforehand. When any of the points I’ve outlined are missed, you lose the opportunity to turn a searcher into a customer.

How confident are you that your posts and articles are doing the job?

02 May 16:09

What Smarketing Looks Like (And Why Your Company Needs to Adopt It)

by Matt Goldman

Smarketing is a new buzz word in the world of sales and marketing. Actually, it’s a contraction of sales & marketing. Hubspot defines smarketing as: “…the alignment between your sales and marketing teams created through frequent and direct communication between the two.”

Since a company’s end goal is always the same, it makes perfect sense to integrate sales and marketing processes in the pursuit of those end goals. Establishing this common ground makes the process of acquiring leads and converting them a lot smoother. It also makes more sense for a consumer to undergo a more cohesive experience. A disjointed experience between sales and marketing can lead to consumer confusion and lost opportunities. A consumer should never feel like they’re being tossed around.

Instead of treating sales and marketing teams like two competing units, a company that takes a cooperative approach makes them all part of the same team. Bringing them together as allies will positively impact a company’s bottom line as well. In fact, some companies that have joined their sales and marketing forces reported a 20% revenue growth.

So, what does smarketing look like within a company?

Sales and Marketing Alignment Best Practices:

It starts with a framework

First, a company’s sales and marketing teams need to be on the same page regarding their target market and what they consider a warm lead. They should also know what their respective objectives are. How many leads should marketing be bringing in? How fast should sales follow up with a lead? How many times should they follow up? Making sure everyone is aligned makes the process so much more straightforward. It’s like a team playing together on a soccer field; the infield and the outfield both know when and where to send the ball. A clear sales and marketing strategy is vital.

Using common terminology

In addition to functioning within the same framework, a company’s sales and marketing alignment depends on using common terminology for the entire funnel process. Having set terms and terminology will not only make the discourse between departments clearer, it will also make the process more streamlined for the customer. If sales is using one set of terminology and marketing is using another, they risk sending mixed messages to the consumer.

Frequent sales and marketing meetings

Saying that a company’s sales and marketing teams work together sounds nice in theory, but it must also be put into practice. Regular meetings provide the physical coming together of the sales and marketing teams and focusing on a common purpose. Sales and marketing management should also work closely together to ensure objectives are being met or to establish those objectives.

The purpose of the meetings is to track their collective progress and hone the smarketing process. Bringing ideas, resources, and suggestions together in meetings can bolster the entire process. Bringing the teams together face-to-face as allies reduces any antagonism, replacing it with the constructive opportunity to build on each other’s success instead.

Create boundaries

Even though the purpose of smarketing is to bring the sales and marketing teams together, there must still be delineation between their respective responsibilities. Clear boundaries must be set between where marketing ends and sales begins so intrusion can be avoided. After all, sales and marketing are two different specialties that require different skills. Employees must know what their particular roles are in a company and how they fit together to keep friction to a minimum.

Closed loop reporting

Anyone from sales or marketing should be able to tell where a particular lead is in the sales and marketing process. They should never be left wondering: “Hey whatever happened to that guy I met at that seminar in June?” They should be able to open up a program and see exactly where that guy is in the buying process. Business 2 Community recommends using both marketing automation software and CRM software to provide data access for both teams and build transparency.

Closed-loop reporting also offers more opportunities for two-way discussion and input between sales and marketing teams. They can check in with each other to enhance the process or give each other valuable customer insight. Aligning sales and marketing processes makes both sides feel they’re working towards a collective goal.

The moral?

Creating a sales-marketing alignment plan can boost a company’s bottom line by creating an opportunity to build each other up rather than tear each other down. Environments, where the sales and marketing teams are competitive rivals, don’t make much sense when the main objective is the same.

To create sales and marketing alignment, a company needs to improve the relationship and conversation between the departments. Smarketing puts sales and marketing on the same team for the benefit of the company as a whole. Now that’s smart marketing!

02 May 16:09

The Leadership Playbook: What A Leader Does

by Anthony Iannarino

A leader leads. They lead the people and the organization in their charge forward.

  • The vision thing. The leader can only lead if she has a clear vision of where she is leading the people in her charge. That vision—and the ability to share it in a clear and compelling way—is what draws followers to her, and what inspires them to take action.
  • Making change. No leader ever finds themselves in charge of an organization that doesn’t need to change, or one that could not produce greater results than they are currently producing. That means a leader leads change. That change is what move an organization from their current state to its future.
  • Strategy. A leader has to have some idea of how to compete and how to win. Strategy is the plan to do so. Without strategy, the vision will not come to life, and the change will not be achieved.
  • Execution. A leader has to ensure execution. Execution is a big deal. You can have the best strategy on Earth and the tactics to achieve them, but without execution, it is all for naught.
  • Growing people. Execution isn’t easy. To execute, the people in the leader’s charge will be required to change, to grow, to develop personally and professionally (you cannot have the latter without the former). A great leader helps those in their charge become the best version of themselves. The greatest of leaders build leadership factories.
  • Teams. Leaders build teams. They bring diverse groups of people together to achieve what would otherwise be impossible. Teams are a force multiplier, creating value far in excess of the individuals it is made of.
  • Nonnegotiable values. A leader creates a culture. They decide what values are nonnegotiable, the core beliefs and behaviors that make the organization in their charge what it is. They decide where the organization stands, what it is for, and what it is against. And then the leader protects that culture.

These are some of the component parts of leadership. That said, what a leader really does is lead.

The post The Leadership Playbook: What A Leader Does appeared first on The Sales Blog.

02 May 16:09

The Very Best Digital Metrics For 15 Different Companies!

by Avinash Kaushik

Colors The very best analysts distill, rather than dilute. The very best analysts focus, when most tend to scatter. The very best analysts display critical thinking, rather than giving into just what’s asked of them. The very best analysts are comfortable operating with ambiguity and incompleteness, while all others chase perfection in implementation / processing / reports. The very best analysts know what matter’s the most are not the insights from big data but clear actions and compelling business impact communicated simply.

The very best analysts practice the above principles every day in every dimension of their jobs. When I interview candidates, tt is that practice that I try to discern carefully. When I see evidence of these qualities in any candidate, my heart is filled with joy (and the candidate’s inbox is filled with a delightful job offer).

This post shares one application of the above skills.

People ask me this seemingly simple question all the time: What Key Performance Indicators should we use for our business? I usually ask in return: What are you trying to get done with your digital strategies?

From experience, I know that there is no one golden metric for everyone. We are all unique snowflakes! :) Hence the optimal answer to the question comes from following a five-step process to build out the Digital Marketing and Measurement Model.

But, what if we did not have that opportunity? What if I was pushed to answer that question with just a cursory glance at their digital existence?

While it is a million times less than ideal, I can still come up with something good based on my distillation skills, application of critical thinking, comfort in operating in ambiguity and prioritizing what will likely help drive big actions. It won’t be perfect, but that is the entire point of this post. It is important, even critical, that we know how to operate in such a environment.

To impress you with the breadth and depth of possibilities, I'm going to take 15 completely different digital companies and share what are the very best key performance indicators (metrics) for each. I don't know these companies intimately, just like you all I have is access to their digital existence. That's what makes it such a great exercise of the aforementioned skills.

Prologue.

In the past I’ve shared a cluster of metrics that small, medium and large businesses can use as a springboard…

These are great starting points, but there is an assumption that based on your expertise and business knowledge that you’ll be able to personalize these.

The challenge I want to take on is to be specific in my recommendations, and to share how we can be very nimble and agile.

You’ll see three consistent patterns in the thinking expressed below (I encourage you to consider adopting them as well).

1. You’ll notice that I ask the five questions that help me identify the higher order bits related to the company. This is critical. They are from my post The Biggest Mistake Web Analysts Make… And How To Avoid It!

2. I am a passionate believer in focusing on the Macro AND Micro-Outcomes. It is the only way to ensure your leadership is not trapped in the let’s solve for only 2% of our business success thinking.

3. It pains me how quickly silos emerge in every company. There are Search people and Content people and Landing Page Optimizers and Cart fixers and Attribution Specialists and more. Everyone solves for their own silo, and IF everyone delivers you get to a local maxima. #tearsofpain One way of removing silos and focusing on the entire business is to leverage Acquisition, Behavior and Outcome metrics. This will allow, nay force, our senior business leaders to see the complete picture, see more of cause and effect, and create incentives for the disparate teams to work together.

A small change I’ll make in this post is that when I recommend the metrics, I’ll follow the Outcomes | Behavior | Acquisition structure. I’m reversing the order because when you talk to Senior Executives, they first, sadly sometimes only, care about all the moolah. We bend to this reality.

Hold me accountable to the above three patterns, if you see a mistake… please let me know via the comment form below.

Also, it is unlikely that I’ll have perfect answers for all 15 businesses below. Please chime and let me know what you would use instead or simply how would you improve the collection of metrics for each type of company.

Ready?

Let’s look at 15 completely different business, and pick just six metrics (two each for A, B and O) that would be the very best ones to measure their digital success. The goal is for each company’s Google Data Studio to not look like a CDP (customized data puke), but to be a focused strategic dashboard with an emphasis on IABI.

If you want to play along. Don’t read what I’ve chosen. Click on the site link, go browse around, go to their social pages, checkout the mobile app, then write down the six metrics you would choose. Then, read on to see what I picked. You’ll discover immense learnings in the gaps between each set of choices (and share yours with me in comments below!).

Ecommerce: Betabrand

I love Betabrand. Their clothes and accessories are eclectic. The brand has a joy that is infectious. And, I’ve been impressed at how they’ve innovated when it comes to what business they really are in.

Here are six O, B, A metrics I would recommend for Betabrand’s strategic dashboard:

Outcomes: Revenue | Ideas Funded
Behavior: Path Length | Cart Abandonment Rate
Acquisition: Assisted Conversions | Share of Search

Every ecommerce site has to obsess about Revenue, hence I use that as the Macro-Outcome. After a consideration of their business evolution, I picked Ideas Funded as the important micro-outcome.

I love driving strategic emphasis on Path Length for larger ecommerce sites as it encourages an obsession away from one-night stands which is the standard operating model for most sites. The implications of Path Length will force a broader analysis of the business, which is harder and hence you'll hire smarter analysts (#awesome). I feel Cart Abandonment is such an overlooked metric, it has tentacles into everything you are doing!

No decent ecommerce entity can live without a hard core focus on acquisition strategies that are powered by out-of-sights from Assisted Conversions data. Finally, Search (organic and paid) continues to be one of the largest contributor of traffic on mobile and desktop. Analyzing your Share of Search, from context you can glean from competitive intelligence tools), is extremely valuable.

Six simple insanely powerful metrics, simple business booming strategic dashboard.

What’s most important above is the thinking on display, the approach to identifying what’s absolutely essential, and an obsession with the higher-order bits. You swap out Ideas Funded for something relevant, and the above six can be used by any large ecommerce business.

A quick best practice.

You’ll also segment these metrics by your most important priorities.

For example, your company is shifting aggressively into leveraging Machine-Learning in your marketing strategies and hence have made a shift to Smart Display Campaigns a huge priority. Wonderful. You would segment the Assisted Conversions report by your Smart Display Campaigns to validate the power of Machine Learning. Remember: All data in aggregate is crap, segment or suck.

For the rest of this post, I’m going to try really hard to stay with the non-segmented metrics as it is much harder to pull that off. But on occasion I’ll mention the segment that would need more analytical focus as I believe it would yield a higher percentage of out-of-sights. You’ll see that on display in parenthesis (for example below).

Small Business Ecommerce: Lefty’s Sports Cards & Collectibles 

What if you are a tiny local business in a narrow niche, should you use the same approach as Betabrand? No. Always adapt to what’s most important and sensible for you (every measurement decision you make has a cost!).

Within a few minutes of visiting Lefty’s site – put on your sunglasses first – it will be clear that Lefty’s does not really care about their website. You can still put together a quick dashboard that will allow Jim and Bob to make smarter decisions by understanding the importance of their digital presence. Here's how they could invest their limited budget smartly:

Outcomes: Autograph Pre-orders | Email Signups
Behavior: Unique Page Views (Gallery) | Bounce Rate (Mobile)
Acquisition: Visits | Click-to-delivery Rate

When my kids and I go meet their baseball heroes for autographs, we always book online. Hence the macro-outcome. Additionally, it is pretty clear from their site that email is a very big deal for them – and an ideal cheap marketing / acquisition strategy for them – hence the micro-outcome is Email signups.

Lefty's stinks when it comes to user experience, even more so on mobile. Hence, I elevated Bounce Rate to a KPI (something I advice against). With the assumption that Galleries drive a lot of people to sign up, the value of UPVs rise in stature.

For a small business Visits are an important metric, even 500 more Visits a week can be huge. Since email is so important as an acquisition channel (and since likely nothing else works for them), I choose one of my three favorite email marketing metrics, CTDR.

Though we have looked at only a couple businesses, I hope you are starting to see common patterns in the approach to identify KPIs. Focus on what’s actually important from a strategy perspective. Macro and Micro-Outcomes. A focus on getting a sense for what the business is actually doing to make the hard choices needed to get to the perfect A, B, O metrics.

A quick best practice.

The metrics you elevate to Key Performance Indicators rarely stay there forever – that would be suicide. You’ll go through the normal metrics lifecycle

If you truly create strategic dashboards, follow the complete process above every six months. On the other hand, if your dashboards are CDPs (customized data pukes), be honest with yourself, I recommend doing this every three months.

B2B / Enterprise Sales: Salesforce

Very little B2B selling is data driven, this gives me profound grief. Mostly because in a B2B context we can deliver such an amazing impact! We as in digital marketers, salespeople, support people, analysts. Let me come back to that thought in a moment, here’s what I would recommend we measure for Salesforce:

Outcomes: Lead Conversion Rate (Visitor) | Trailheads Certified
Behavior: Page Value | Session Quality 
Acquisition: Visitors (Mobile) | Click-thru Rate (Paid)

Since every SINGLE thing of customer value at Salesforce.com ends with the same gosh darn lead gen form, we measure Leads. :) We focus on the better conversion rate definition, divide it by Visitors (or Users in GA). It creates an incentive to focus on people, and give each individual visitor the breathing room they need to convert (the burden then shifts to the company to be able to think smarter when it comes to the experience and incentives). I choose Trailhead Certified as the micro-outcome as there are multiple points of value from the Trailheads program (lower support costs, higher retention, faster time to value for clients etc.).

The site has tons and tons of content, almost haphazardly so. Hence for behavior the magical Page Value metric. It will help Salesforce hold every piece of content accountable for delivering business impact (macro or/and micro). Session Quality leverages machine learning to provide Salesforce with behavioral analysis to help personalize the user experience and customize off-site marketing experience. It is a cool KPI you should explore for businesses of any kind.

Mobile is massively undervalued by most B2B companies (including SF), hence the acquisition emphasis there. CTR puts the emphasis on right message to the right person at the right time.

B2B analytics are insanely sexy and exciting. Yes. Really. Please be creative in your analytics efforts, and don’t take no for an answer when it comes to the value of analytics. Don’t accept the excuse oh but all the sales come via phone or I convert at industry events or our buyers are old school! 

A quick best practice.

Push. But, be picky, focus on big important pieces. For example, Salesforce spends tons of people/money on social media posting/activity and you can see this on display on their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social platforms. A cursory review will demonstrate that a low double digit number of humans engage with this massive amount of content Salesforce publishes. Almost all that investment is wasted (and don't even get me started on the opportunity cost!).

Yet, you won’t notice it in my KPIs. Yes, their current social strategy not great use of time or money, but we have bigger fish to fry. Make tough choices.

Newspapers: Tampa Bay Times

I am a huge political junkie and it truly breaks my heart that newspapers are dying. I pay monthly subscriptions for the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker and National Geographic. We are a better humanity thanks to the work of journalists, I hope the industry finds a sustainable business model.

You’ll see my pet peeves about what media entities don’t measure currently in my recommendations:

Outcomes: New Subscriptions | My Edition Signups 
Behavior: Recency | Unique Page Views (Content Groups)
Acquisition: Visits (Referrals) | % New Visits

With advertising revenue in a tailspin, New Subscriptions are more important than ever and hence that's our macro-outcome KPI. I have a massive bias against the current click-bait, let’s go viral, “hot story of the moment” traffic. I humbly believe the answer is to solve for loyalty, which if we don’t suck at it, will drive New Subs. Hence, the micro-outcome choice is My Edition Signups. It forces TBT to assess if people find the site valuable enough to open an account, and is TBT then personalizing the experience enough to drive loyalty.

Continuing the obsession with deeper relationships… TBT is a newspaper that’s updated 80k times a day, how does the Recency distribution look like? I visit the New Yorker 8 times each day on average (closer relationship, higher perception of value, and as a result I’m a paying subscriber). Our second behavior metric, Unique Page Views, helps quantify content consumption.

Here's a lovely graph, from one of my older posts, that would be immensely valuable in trying to find the balance between content production and content consumption.

I would tweak it a bit. For each section of the site, Unique Page Views vs. Amount of Content published in that section. It provides critical food for thought in trying to balance what content and people does it need more of and less of.

In picking acquisition metrics I'm trying to counterbalance my bias to have deeper individual relationships over time. Visits – with an emphasis on referrals, with a deeper segmentation of social and mobile because of how humans get content these days – and % New Visits to grow.

A quick best practice.

You are always going to have biases. It is ok. Invest in becoming aware of them. And, when you catch yourself taking actions due to those biases, correct for them in the best way possible. In the above case, I counterbalanced for my bias in Behavior and Outcomes by choosing against my bias in the Acquisition section.

Charity/Non-Profits: The Smile Train

As some of you know, 100% of the proceeds from both of my books are donated to charity. Thus far, well over $100,000 each to The Smile Train, Doctors Without Borders and Ekal Vidyalaya. Thanks for buying my books.

Digital is a valuable component of The Smile Train’s strategy, here’s how we can measure effectiveness…

Outcomes: Donations (Online, Tracked phone calls) | Cause Related Clicks
Behavior: Amplification Rate | Completed Views (Videos, Stories)
Acquisition: Visitors (Geo) | Clicks (Social)

Donations, straightforward. Of all the micro-outcomes the one that was really innovative (and trackable!) was the Cause Related Marketing effort. So clever of them to become a part of people’s lives to raise money rather than the usual annual donation.

Charities can only market themselves so much, they have to figure out how to get the rest of us to do it for them. They have great content, if we believe in them then ST has to get us to amplify it for them. I love the stories they have, there is the obligatory collection of social links on the top, but they don’t overtly ask you to amplify. How about if I scroll through most of the story then a subtle pop-up from the bottom-right asking me to amplify via my social channels? I can get them to more people like me, more donations. Hence, Amplification Rate is my first behavior metric (to incentivize both ST and site visitors). Smile Train has precious resources, leverage event tracking to measure completed views of all the content is a fabulous way to drive a persistent focus on content optimization.

Charities have opinions about where their donors come from, I recommend a Geo segmentation strategy to understand Visitors to the site to broaden the leadership's horizons (literally!). You can of course segment this by other elements. Social is a big part for every charity. To avoid Smile Train peanut-buttering their social strategy, measuring Social Clicks is a really sound way to understand where to put more/less effort.

A quick best practice.

Digital strategy for nonprofits should be more innovative than what you currently see. For example, for me the coolest lesson of Bernie 2016 is the mobile fundraising innovation. So, so, so many clever things done that charities should learn from and implement when it comes to their mobile strategy (to complement their 1961 strategy of text Red Cross to 12347 to donate $10).

Pharmaceutical: Humira 

There are some restrictions on selling prescription drugs in the US. This places some limits in terms of what we can track in web analytics tools. Not just PII, which we can’t track anyway, but the ability to use anonymous cookies for remarketing so on and so forth. Still, we can provide transformative KPIs in our Pharma practice:

Outcomes: Humira Complete Signups | Doctor Lookups 
Behavior: Unique Page Views (Condition) | Visitor Status (Login)
Acquisition: Visits (TV) | Click-Share (Search)

You can get tons of enticing stuff if you sign up for Humira Complete, including a Savings Card, and clearly the brand gets a lot out of it. Hence that'll be our macro-outcome. There are lots of micro-outcomes, in this case given most Pharma companies are still in the early stages of savvy, I choose something close to making money, Doctor Lookups. I know Pharma companies also value prospective patients downloading the Discussion Guides which could also be a micro-outcome (in this case you get that after you do the Lookup).

The Humira site solves for 10 different conditions. That makes UPVs a great KPI to get deep visibility into what content is being consumed. The site hopes to drive a beyond the prescription connection with patients, with loads of resources behind the login. Hence, we use custom variables to track logged in status and we can analyze a whole host of valuable behavior and optimize our investments.

Humira does not believe in digital (ok, I’m just teasing them) but they love, love, love TV. Analysis that leverages their complete media plan in conjunction with site traffic will help provide one important measure of TV effectiveness. Ditto for any other major offline blitzes that Abbvie is running. Our last piece of the puzzle is AdWords Click-Share. There were 1,592,527 searches for Ankylosing Spondylitis, how many those clicks did you get? 1.2%. Great. Now shoot for 20% if you actually believe your drug is effective!

A quick best practice.

There is only one channel where our ability to discern intent is super-strong: Search. On Yandex. On Baidu. On Google. On Seznam. It is a little silly to think of Search in archaic terms like “Brand” and “Category.”

Think in terms of clusters of intent that you can solve for. See. Think. Do. Care. Search will solve for Think and Do. Sometimes your “Brand” terms will have weak commercial intent – in that case you should have Think Targeting and Think Content marketing strategies. Likewise your “Category” terms might reflect strong commercial intent, in that case Do marketing strategies will allow you to win bigger.

Let your competition be lame and play by a 1997 worldview. You take advantage of them by living in 2017!

As the post is getting long, understatement of the decade, let me just make recommendations for metrics for rest of teh businesses, and let you explore the site to figure out why they make the most sense in each case.

Government: California Department of Motor Vehicles

I love governments!

Outcomes: Online Applications/Renewals | Downloads
Behavior: Visits with Search | Customer Satisfaction (by Primary Purpose)
Acquisition: Visitors (Channels) | Visitors (City)

Task Completion by Primary Purpose is my absolute favorite metric for any website (all the ones above). It made most sense here. It is a part of my simple three questions that make the greatest survey questions ever.

A quick best practice.

A much more detailed collection of recommendations I’d written for the Government of Belgium a little while back: Web Analytics Success Measurement For Government Websites.

Stock Photography: Shutterstock

I spend hours looking for inspiration for the stock photos that end up on my LinkedIn Influencer channel posts.

Outcomes: Lifetime Value (Revenue Per User) |  Contributor Signups
Behavior: Cohort Analysis | Top Event (by Category) 
Acquisition: Visitors | Assisted Conversions

For someone as savvy as Shutterstock, Cohort Analysis at the intersection of incredible behavior analysis and optimizing acquisition across media channels.

Movie Studio: The Fate of the Furious

I hear it is Oscar-worthy. : )

Outcomes: Ticket Purchases | Completed Trailers 
Behavior: Unique Page Views | Outbound Clicks (All Access+) 
Acquisition: Visits | CTR (Paid)

One shift in movie sites is that the metrics and strategy have distinct phases, per-release, post-release, off-theaters (DVD, digital sales). You’ll have to have three sets of metrics as outcomes and marketing strategies change.

Mobile Gaming: Jam City 

Raise your hands if you love mobile games!

Outcomes: Downloads (by Store) |  Support Requests
Behavior: Videos Watched | Goal Flow (Source)
Acquisition: Click-Share (Mobile Search) | Visitors (Similar Audiences)

We are only measuring the value the website (mobile and desktop). If we had to measure the Apps itself, there would be an entire new cluster of metrics including 30-day MAUs, Lifetime Value, Sessions/User, so and and so forth.

Automotive Dealer: Nissan Sunnyvale 

Electric cars FTW!

Outcomes: No Brainer Price Requests | Service Appointments 
Behavior: Unique Page Views (Purpose Type) | Sessions With Search 
Acquisition: Visitors | Paid Clicks (by Media)

I have to admit I’m usually pretty torn between tracking online leads (no brainer request in this case) vs. leads via Chat (very prominent on most dealer sites) or Phone (very common). Often Chat and Phone can be more valuable (and numerous) than the online leads.

Food / Beverages: McCormick 

If there is an industry stuck in 1920s, it is the food companies (of all types). Their core value proposition from digital is still recipes – a marketing strategy as old as packed food. And not even interactive digital-first recipes – the same boring presentation and text as you’ll find on the back of the box!

There is so, so, so, so much more that food, beverages and restaurant companies can do. Digital is all pervasive in our lives, food is something we love and adore (and a top five category in content consumption on YouTube!), mobile allows these brands to be ever closer to us… all that’s needed is a pinch of imagination. PopChips and Chobani are two that show imagination with their content strategies, hopefully they inspire others.

Let’s see what we can measure if we had to do it for a great old brand McCormick.

Outcomes: Shopping Lists Created | Reviews Submitted
Behavior: Frequency | Events (Content Type)
Acquisition: Visitors (Referrals) | Clicks (Remarketing)

I came close to using Login Status for behavior, it would provide fascinating insight into the ability of McCormick to create loyalty, even brand evangelists. But, a quick peek at the competitive intelligence data shows that it is seems it is not all that important (barely any people login). If I were at McCormick I would look at the GA data and double-validate that. If it seems to be a big enough number, we can use Login Status as a segmentation strategy.

Tech Support: Dell US

Digital analytics for a tech support site tends to be a lot of fun, primarily because you can directly drive costs down and increase repurchase rate (loyalty) – thus hitting both sides of the balance sheet causing your CFO to give you a thousand kisses. 

Outcomes: Task Completion Rate (split by Primary Purpose, and Direct vs. Community support) | System Updates (Drivers, Diagnostics etc.)
Behavior: Page Views per Visit | Visits to Resolution 
Acquisition: Visits | Search Click-Share

A long, long time ago, when I was but a youth, I had a view on this topic… Measuring Success for a Support Website.

Social | YouTube: Prudential

In case your primary digital existence consists of a YouTube channel (I hope that is not the case, you want to have a solid owned AND rent platform strategies).

Outcomes: Subscribers | Brand Consideration
Behavior: Views (by Content Type) | Conversation Rate 
Acquisition: Views | Sources

I have a detailed primer on comprehensive YouTube success. It has more metrics you can use, if indeed you are a YouTube only existence.

Social | Facebook: Priceline

Priceline is a typical brand, and their page illustrates why an organic strategy is worth almost nothing on Facebook. You can easily validate that statement. Go ahead and click on the link above. As you scroll, you'll notice that the numbers you see for each post are less than tiny. This applies for all companies, not just Priceline.

Facebook is an important strategy for your company, just let your focus be on a Paid Media strategy and measure success as you would any paid strategy.

But, if like Priceline you continue to have your organic content strategy on Facebook (or Twitter)…

Outcomes: Page Likes | Brand Consideration 
Behavior: Amplification Rate | Conversation Rate 
Acquisition: Visits | Paid Likes

You can do a lot more of course, if Facebook is your only digital outpost (though, again, I hope that is not the case as you need to have an owned and rented platform strategy)…

More here: Facebook Advertising / Marketing: Best Metrics, ROI, Business Value.

There you are. Fifteen completely different types of digital businesses that we can measure immensely effectively, usually uniquely, with the rich collection of data we have in any free/paid digital analytics solution.

I hope that you discovered new valuable metrics that will become KPIs to measure your Acquisition, Behavior and Outcome efforts. But, what I hope you’ll take away more is the application of critical thinking, to be more comfortable operating in ambiguity and bring ruthless focus and prioritization what is most likely to drive big action. You don’t have to get it all right the first time. Implement. Evaluate. Kill/Keep. Improve. Rinse. Repeat.

Carpe diem!

As always, it is your turn now.

If you picked six metrics (two each for A, B, O) for any site above, will you please share them via comments below? Is there a metric above that you particularly love/hate, why? Is there a metric you would use instead of something I used? Is there a type of site you have had a hard time picking metrics that matter the most? You’ve surely noticed some patterns in what I tend to like and don’t (notice, no time metrics above!), will you share your thoughts if you feel there is a sub-optimal bias there?

I look forward to your guidance to improve what I know, fill in gaps in my knowledge and the wisdom you have that I completely overlooked. Please share via comments.

Thank you.

The Very Best Digital Metrics For 15 Different Companies! is a post from: Occam's Razor by Avinash Kaushik

02 May 16:09

15 Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Marketing

by Robert Allen

Mapping the most effective AI technologies for marketing across the customer lifecycle AI technology is a hot topic in marketing at the moment, but AI is a broad term covering a wide range of different technologies. Artificial intelligence means any …..

The post 15 Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Marketing appeared first on Smart Insights.

02 May 16:09

How to Create Your First Sales Funnel

by Bob Hutchins

Whether you realize it or not, you already have a sales funnel.

If you’re thinking, “I do?” then this post is for you.

If you know you have a sales funnel, but you’re not getting the results you want, this post is for you.

If you have no idea what a sales funnel is, but you’re interested in selling, this post is for you.

In this blog, I’m going to show you how to create a basic sales funnel that will convert leads into customers. Then, at the end of the post, I’m going to share with you a special bonus tip for how you can cover much (or even all) of the costs associated with your sales funnel!

But first…

What is a sales funnel?

A sales funnel is essentially the process your customer walks through from the point-of-discovery to point-of-sale (POS). (The sales funnel can also go beyond POS into additional products and services, but we’re going to ignore that for now.)

There are literally an infinite number of ways you can structure a sales funnel.

But for the purpose of this post, we are going to focus on ONE simple, no-frills method for building a sales funnel. Once you master this five-part sales funnel you can consider other funnels and tweak and modify this one. But if you’re new to the game, start here.

Step 1: Create a Landing Page

A landing page is a simple one-page site that has a very clear purpose and call-to-action. While you may be able to build a landing page on your own site, I recommend using www.leadpages.net. This is a fantastic service with tested templates that take care of the design process for you. Plus, your landing page doesn’t have to be connected directly to your website, which means users are less likely to get distracted by all the other content they can click on within your website.

The goal of the landing page is to get people to act. More on that in Step 3. But first… how will people get there?

Step 2: Drive Traffic

Just because you have a landing page doesn’t mean people will show up. You have to drive traffic to it. While there are organic methods to do this (write guest posts, get speaking engagements, etc.), the best method to get traffic is to buy it.

By purchasing traffic, you are in control and you have the ability to scale. You don’t have to wait for an organic Facebook post to “go viral,” which is probably not going to happen. Targeted Facebook ads are some of the most effective and accessible ways to drive traffic.

Trust me on this one… buying traffic is the way to go!

Step 3: Give Something Away

Ok, you’ve got your lead page and you’ve bought the traffic. Now what?

Now you give something away.

Give?

Yes. Give.

The lead page is not the place to sell. At this point, you are still a total stranger to the audience you’ve brought to your lead page. They don’t know you, and they don’t have much of a reason to trust you.

The goal at this stage is to get them to trust you. One of the best ways to do this is to give them something that is of tremendous value to them. This can be a PDF, an eBook, a video, a free sampling of your service… anything, as long as it’s something they really want.

There’s just one catch.

They have to give you their email address to get it.

Step 4: Send an Email Drip Campaign

As soon as you collect their email, you send them the free thing. I like using Mail Chimp for auto emails. You can create an email drip campaign within MailChimp that continues to build a relationship and trust with the new “customer.” (I say “customer” in quotes because they still haven’t actually bought anything from you yet.)

Over the course of the drip campaign, which might be anywhere from three to 10 emails over the course of one week to a month, you continue to provide value. You tease out their greatest desires and drill them on their greatest pain points.

Step 5: The Big-Ticket Sale

Finally, you ask in your email drip campaign for the big-ticket sale. Sometimes there might be an additional step between the email and the POS itself. For example, you might send them an invite to a webinar with limited space and then pitch them on the sale at the end of the webinar. However, this isn’t always necessary. Depending on the quality of your lead and the strength of the email drip campaign you may be able to ask for the sale outright.

Bonus: The Upsell

If you’ve read this far, you get a bonus.

This goes between Steps 3 and 4: The Upsell.

After you give away the high-value item for free, you can present your new lead with a special one-time offer (or however you would like to present it to instill a sense of urgency). This special one-time offer is a paid product that is something of a bridge between your free high-value item and your big-ticket product.

You should price this upsell product at a price point that helps you cover the cost of your Facebook ads (or whatever channel you’re using to drive campaign traffic).

A Sample Upsell Scenario…

Let’s say you have a lead acquisition cost of $4.00.

Of those leads that arrive at your landing page, let’s say 25% (one in four) will convert. That makes your total cost of getting a customer on your email list $16.00 (4 x $4.00).

Of the customers who get on your mailing list, another 25% (one in four) will buy the upsell product.

So, in order to break even with your acquisition cost, you would need to sell your upsell product for $64 ($4.00 x 4 x 4).

With those figures, your sales funnel costs would balance out to $0 per email!

Once you hit on the dollars and percentages that work for you, all that’s left is to scale it!

02 May 16:09

The Secrets of Using DISC to Close More Deals

by josh@fourletter.io (Josh Jordan)

use-disc-in-selling-compressor-680515-edited.jpg

There’s a subtle, debilitating disease that affects almost everyone in sales. It can go unnoticed for weeks, months, or even years.

"Autopilot sales mode": Doing the same tasks day after day leads to autopilot, or the tendency to act without conscious thought.

For example, many salespeople have outgoing, talkative, emotional, enthusiastic personalities. And they sell in a way that feels most “natural” to them. Every time they get on a call, they sell in a way that they would like to be sold to without thinking twice about it. Most salespeople don’t think about why they’re saying what they’re saying.

An outgoing, emotional personality is great when you’re selling to a decision maker who also has that personality. But what if your customers are more reserved or analytical? What if they’re less willing to take risk or are less optimistic?

In situations like this, going on “autopilot sales mode” can cripple your close rate.

The best salespeople modify their script to their audience members based on their personality. They understand the same tone and delivery style won’t always work for two different customers. They know different types of customers need different buying experiences.

One framework you can use to adapt yourself to your audience is the taking a sales-based DISC personality assessment. (No time to delve into this today, but chat with us here if you’ve questions.)

By understanding which DISC archetype most closely matches you and your prospect, you'll know which strategy and presentation style to use.

In this post, I’ll show you how you can grow your sales by using the DISC framework.

Identify DISC Type

The first step in figuring out how to adapt sales presentation to your customers is first understanding your own personality type.

DISC is broken down into four archetypes: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance.

  • “Dominant” (D) people prioritize results over everything else. They care most about their bottom line and are very direct in their communication.
  • “Influential” (I) people care most about influencing or persuading others. They put a lot of weight on their relationships.
  • “Steady” (S) people emphasize security. They look for sincerity and dependability over anything else.
  • “Compliant” (C) people want as much information as possible about your product or service. They value quality and accuracy and are afraid of making the wrong move.

Aside from taking a DISC assessment test, you can figure out your own profile by thinking about your behavior in different situations. For example:

  • Dominant people are highly driven and ambitious, with anger being their driving emotion. They’re also extroverted, task-oriented, and occasionally impatient.
  • Influential people aren’t afraid of being the center of attention. If you’re the Influential type, you’re probably enthusiastic about what you do, talkative, and extroverted.
  • Steady people are frequently reserved or non-emotional. These people crave security, are resistant to change, and prefer working on one or two tasks instead of several.
  • Compliant people are very accurate, precise, and detail-oriented. They’re naturally cautious and rely on calculated data-backed decisions rather than gut feelings.

Once you figure out your own DISC profile, you’ll have a good sense of your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to selling to other personality types.

Most salespeople naturally sell to their own personality type instead of thinking about the personality of their customers.

For example, if you have a high “D” personality, you might become impatient with someone who’s an “S” who prefers to take an interaction more slowly. If you’re an “S” selling to a “D”, you might get turned off by their direct and confrontational approach.

If you’re an “I” and you’re selling to a potential customer who’s a “C,” you might try to sell to their emotions or feelings when they want facts and data.

Here are some behavioral and body language clues you can use to quickly figure out the personality of your customers:

  • HIgh “D” people typically move fast and always on the go. They’ll talk with their hands, using big gestures. They’re not enthusiastic about small talk. Sometimes, they can give the impression that they’re rude or hard to deal with.
  • High “I” people are typically trusting and optimistic. They use lots of facial expressions and hand gestures while they talk.
  • High “S” people tend to keep “poker” faces and don’t display much emotion. They’ll talk and walk with a steady, easy pace.
  • High “C” people will ask direct, detailed questions. Their classic body language is having their arms folded, with a hand on their chin.

Here’s an infographic that shows the communication styles of different personalities:

fourLetter Selling DISC.pngYou can figure out the main personality type of your potential customers within the first few minutes of an interaction based on how they respond to small talk, the first questions they ask you, and their body language.

Adapt Your Selling Style to Your Buyer's DISC Type

Once you’re aware of your personality type and know how to identify the personality types of your customers, you can adapt your sales techniques to resonate with them.

Here are some tactical ideas on how to do that for each personality type:

Dominant

If you’re selling to a high “D” customer, show you respect their views and requirements without making them feel like you’re simply agreeing to whatever they say. They’ll view that as a sign of weakness.

You should also avoid focusing on them personally, and stick to the facts at hand.

Dominant people are strongly influenced by other people who they perceive as having high status or power. When possible, use testimonials from well-known people in your industry.

Influential

“I” personalities like to talk about their ideas and emotions, so ask them what they’re thinking and feeling. Let them vocalize what’s working and what’s not.

They can also be disorganized and avoid details, so providing summaries or takeaways of what you discussed can help them focus on what you want them to focus on. But only include details that are absolutely necessary.

Steadiness

People with high “S” personalities are even-tempered, composed, and good at listening. Show them you’re interested in who they are as a person, and don’t let your sales pitch feel too “transactional.” Make it clear you value the relationship.

If you focus too much on facts and numbers, you’ll risk coming off as impersonal.

Compliant

People with high “C” personalities like having as much information as possible. Give them the information from your verbal pitch again in writing. Knowing they can review all the documents later and make an informed decision puts “C” people at ease.

Having a detailed pros and cons list in your proposal can also help them make a decision.

Compliant people are very afraid of making the wrong decision, so offering some type of guarantee or refund can help ease their worry.

Many salespeople sell in a way that feels most “natural” to them, which usually means selling to their own personality type. That’s why most pitches tend to have inconsistent results.

If you’re able to adapt your pitch on the fly to the personality of your customer, you’ll consistently exceed your quota.

May the sales be with you.

Want a visual guide to using DISC to sell? Download this handy resource.

Free Sales Training from HubSpot Academy

02 May 16:08

How to Build a Sales and Marketing Powerhouse

by Alex Hisaka
  • Colleagues Bumping Fists

Closing the gap between sales and marketing has long been the goal for many organizations. But that alignment is more critical than ever as the two groups must work closely together to accompany B2B buyers down the path to purchase. Here are four steps sales leaders can take to proactively build a sales and marketing powerhouse that works in tandem to achieve great results.

1. Rally Around a Common Understanding

Marketing and sales can’t row in the same direction if they don’t know where they’re headed or how they’re supposed to get there. The first step is establishing a clear understanding of your audience segments, overall goals, rules of engagement, expectations, and processes. At a minimum, marketing and sales should hash out answers to the following:

·         What is an ideal customer?

·         What is a qualified lead and what is the process for qualifying one?

·         How can we prioritize lead quality over lead quantity?

·         What is marketing’s role versus sales’ role?

·         At what point should marketing hand leads over to sales and how?

·         How will we track lead status and progress?

·         What happens when sales disagrees with a lead qualification?

·         How will marketing and sales be held accountable for their responsibilities?

2. Pinpoint the Most Pressing Gaps

To plan for better alignment, you need to understand where things stand today. A useful step is analyzing marketing and sales performance to identify areas for improvement. This can help isolate key sales and marketing processes to address, such as:

·         What steps should we add, delete, or improve?

·         Has our organization defined the ideal way to sell and market our solutions?

·         Do we have a proven, repeatable process for generating leads and converting them into orders and repeat orders?

Also review your current sales and marketing strategy to identify tactical changes you could make around:

·         Which markets and customer profiles to target

·         Messaging and value propositions

·         Demand generation

·         Social selling

Don’t forget to look beyond your four walls. By surveying your customers about their experience during the purchase process, you might identify opportunities for improvements. Perhaps they’ll tell you (in so many words) they would appreciate your company engaging them with more relevance, better timed marketing and sales outreach, or with more helpful guidance throughout the buying process. Whatever their feedback, take it to heart and figure out how to take action on it.

Once you’ve identified the key shortcomings in the sales and marketing partnership, set goals for what you’d like to see as the result of better alignment. For example, perhaps today you focus on your solutions and sales process. But a smart future goal would be to focus on market needs and how to ensure a best-in-class buying experience.

3. Focus on the Customer Experience

The customer experience is moving to the top of the priority stack at more organizations. Rallying around the same strategic goal of delivering an outstanding experience throughout the buying cycle can serve as a North Star to guide marketing and sales alignment. As you consider changes to processes, ask whether or not these will benefit buyers and existing customers.

Getting more tactical, make sure your marketing team guides sales on which leads to contact, when to contact them, and what content is most relevant for engaging them. Work out how marketing will clue the sales team in on all interactions between marketing and prospects, and keep the sales team up to speed on changing buyer intelligence. At the same time, make sure the marketing team fully understands the social selling process.

4. Communicate Regularly

Alignment is not a once-and-done exercise. To keep sales and marketing headed in the same direction, host regularly scheduled sales and marketing meetings to discuss high-level strategies and granular tactics. Have your top sales reps meet with the marketing team to share their experiences and provide input regarding new content and messaging. And encourage the marketing and sales teams to socialize in more informal settings. The more they get to know each other personally, the more likely they will see each other as teammates working toward a common goal.

When sales and marketing truly become partners, the result is a collaborative effort to find leads, engage prospects, close deals, and grow customer relationships. You can help your organization achieve better collaboration by taking the lead on alignment.

Download our eBook, Solving Sales and Marketing Alignment, for more best practices and guidance.

02 May 16:08

Don’t Do Sales Prospecting Manually: Automate It and Triple Your Wins

by Chris Zawisza

As salespeople, we all need to eat, breath, and prospect. These are the essential functions of our daily lives (at least at work) but we already do the first two almost automatically. What is not automated is sales prospecting, which leaves us with less time for selling to our customers.

Let me run you through a sales team leader’s average day. Your team sits with you on LinkedIn, laboriously searching through data and copying it to spreadsheets. Sales prospecting this way eats into everybody’s motivation no matter how well paid they are, leading to poor results.

At this point, your supervisor comes over and tells you that your department needs to be scheduling more meetings. No matter how hard you motivate your team, the only way to scale up the work is to hire more people. The average salesperson spends less than 15 percent of their time engaging with customers. Imagine what they could achieve if they were able to double or triple that part of their schedule.

Does any of this sound familiar? Your team is full of intelligent highly paid people who are squandering their time and talents on manual busywork. Which begs the question: Why should I reduce the time my sales team spends on the essential function of sales prospecting and how can I do it?

sales prospecting

Why shouldn’t sales reps spend time sales prospecting?

The goal of your automated email campaign is to break the ice and spark the potential buyer’s interest, leading them to reply. Prospecting for it can be easily automated and shouldn’t be put on the shoulders of your sales reps.

You hired your sales reps because they have the intelligence and creativity necessary for selling to your customers. You pay them competitive salaries and you expect them to produce strong results that contribute to your revenue pipeline. It is pretty clear they should be communicating directly with leads to persuade people of your unique value proposition.

The sales rep needs to answer all of the lead’s questions and address all of their objections to the best of their ability. This part of the process has the biggest impact on your sales and is what your sales reps should be spending most of their time on; it’s the part where the human is irreplaceable.

How can we take prospecting off our reps’ shoulders?

I get it. Prospecting is supposed to be the coal that fires outbound sales. By targeting the right prospects, your message will resonate, you will get warm leads, and they will result in a steady revenue pipeline. So what would allow you to reduce the time your sales reps spend on such a vital function of the outbound sales process?

Automation tools of course. Prospecting is still a vital function but a lot of what used to be done manually can be automated. Instead of hunting for every scrap of data on a prospect, you can now just enter the criteria you want and a list of targeted prospects with verified contact information can be generated for you with just a click. These can then be automatically added to a personalized outbound campaign that will run without you needing to do anything more.

Of course, not all tools are created equal. Here are a couple things to consider.

Get the best sales prospecting data

No matter which prospecting tools you use, it is important that the sales prospecting data that you use is high quality. And don’t just take it from us. List and data sourcing became the top challenge for sales reps in 2016. The thing is that bad data can slow you down for a few reasons:

  • Using out of date email addresses means that your messages won’t get to the person you want to target.
  • Bad or out of date email addresses will cause your messages to bounce
  • You will have to send out twice as many messages as you would with good data
  • Too many bounces and your email domain will be blacklisted by spam filters, preventing you from reaching any of your prospects.

When choosing data sources, use solid data providers like Growbots, DiscoverOrg, or ZoomInfo. Whichever one you choose depends on your needs and your budget but try to shoot for data which is at least 90% good. To learn more, you can check out our article about what makes a good data-provider.

Automate your emailing to make your sales reps more effective

The right email automation tool can triple the output of your sales reps. You need to find an email automation tool that will let you send hundreds of personalized messages. Apart from that, it is essential that you are able to automate the followups you send as well. Think about it, how much time could you save if your entire campaign was executed with a single click?

sales prospectingBetter tools will even provide you with reports so that you can improve the impact of your messaging. This leads to the question of what kind of solutions you should seek for. There are free options like Streak, which are great to start with but provide no automated followups. Yesware is an industry leader if you are purely looking for an email automation tool and nothing else.

Integrate your sales prospecting tool stack

As you add more tools, you create more busy work moving data between them. To streamline the sales lead generation process it is essential to find tools that integrate with as many other tools as possible. In fact, industry leaders are two times more likely to integrate their automated sales lead management tool stack with their CRM than industry laggards. This means that to optimize your sales team’s time, it is important to find either an all in one solution or one which seamlessly integrates with the rest of your tools stack.

Growbots is a good example of a tool that integrates well. On the one hand, it combines a sales prospecting tool with an emailing tool. It takes a few clicks to go from nothing to a complete list of leads being sent out in personalized campaigns. On the other, it integrates natively with your CRM so that your campaign and touch points are logged automatically. The result is that you can see full reporting in one place which will allow you to iterate your campaigns.

What automation can do for you

Want to know how far automation can boost the results of a single person? In our own experience: Mike, one of our sales reps at Growbots, used to be able to set up about 20 sales qualified leads per month using Yesware and external data sources. Once we started using Growbots and switched our CRM to Salesforce, we finally had everything in one place. He was then able to boost his results to 60-70 SQLs per month.

In other words, he increased his results more than 3 times! Imagine what those results would mean when multiplied across a team of 8 people; we would have to hire 16 more people to achieve the same results with our previous sales stack. If you want to see what effect changing your warm lead rate will have on your sales pipeline, check out our outbound revenue calculator.

We’ve finally made a switch and instead of spending time on prospecting and juggling different tools, we spend 80% of our day purely on conversations with our potential customers. There is no reason why you can’t enjoy the same success.

02 May 16:07

What Is The Average Salary of a SaaS Sales Rep?

by Matt Goldman

As a member of the frontline of a SaaS program, a huge amount of pressure is given to a sales development representative to deliver results. But that’s not to say that their hard work won’t be compensated accordingly. With the contributions one is able to impart, they do of course deserve to be rewarded along with the company’s growth. So, how much do sales development representatives really make?

When looking to take on this job, remember that certain factors may drastically alter how much a company would be willing to offer. Points like geography, industry, skill, experience, and performance are greatly considered when allotting a budget for a SaaS sales development rep salary.

The Average Salary of a SaaS Sales Rep

The sales development salary, as previously mentioned, varies. If a sales development rep from New York—who would typically receive a $45,000 salary—encouraged a hopeful from Cleveland—which has SaaS companies that usually offer around $38,000—the latter would most likely be discouraged, or would rather seek opportunities in the former’s location.

PayScale’s 2017 salary report suggests that US-based SaaS companies have base salaries ranging from$35,338 to $97,299; with the median pegged at $35, 869. With spiffs included—bonuses going from $2,013 to $38, 530, profit sharing staple at $2,250, and commissions varying from $6,755 to as much as $76, 876—a sales development rep for an American SaaS company would be getting an annual salary of anywhere between $36, 199 to $131, 011.

PayScale also shares that certain companies provide additional incentives like: medical coverage and dental insurance that are not calculated alongside the gross annual salary stated above.

The Basic Functions of a SaaS Sales Rep

Businesses of today are lucky to be maneuvering within an industry that is heavily aided by technology. Technological trends in businesses appear in a rapid rate that can potentially disrupt rather weak sales operations. SaaS sales reps are employed to find companies who need tech support to optimize their sales operations. Here are specific areas you need to be knowledgeable in:

  • Executing proven processes to generate new sales opportunities
  • Strategizing with top-producing sales managers
  • Mapping prospective accounts around organizational structure, people and existing technology
  • Engaging executives in targeted prospect accounts
  • Orchestrating discussions with senior execs around their business needs
  • Managing and maintaining a pipeline of interested prospects
  • Leveraging CRM tools to prospect into specific geographic territories and sectors

The Characteristics of a Well-Performing Sales Rep

You might have the educational background, and the technical know-how that forms a good SaaS sales rep, but do you have the right traits that will help you stay in the profession? Grab a pen, and see which of these listed characteristics you have:

  • Be well-versed in using any technological platform to be able to provide efficient assistance to your clients.
  • Be able to discuss your product well in order to educate your clients about its competitive advantage against other brands.
  • Be adept in profiling your clients, whether they’re worth going through the whole sales process with, and if they’re going to be beneficial to your own company’s growth.
  • Be equally empathetic towards your clients’ individual success, as well as hitting your own quota.
  • Be proficient in communicating a sincere voice with your clients using e-mails, phone calls, or video chats to forge strong connections.

The Inefficacy of Sales Reps with Reaching Their Quotas and How Employers Can Solve It

According to a report by The Bridge’s Group, producing desired number of clients is the perennial and primary hindrance to a sales reps’ success. Having an average estimate of 13 opportunities and 21 leads per month; and with an expected ramp time of three months, only two-thirds are successful in reaching their quotas. Just for 2016, The Bridge’s Group tallied a 1-year-and-4-month tenure average for most sales reps.

This statistic should not bother aspiring SDR’s however. Based on research conducted by The Bridge’s Group, the main reasons for the inability of most reps to reach their quotas are factors caused by their own employers. From the study, the group found that common culprits for this inefficient performance include: unreasonable quotas, unclear job descriptions, lack of supervision, impractical expectations, and the wrong hiring process. For companies experiencing troubles with their reps, here are a couple of tips to troubleshoot this predicament.

  • Some companies tend to set quotas that are unfounded. If you find your reps’ performances going on a downward spiral, it’s probably high-time for you to check your quota. Make sure that the quota you set is something that is reasonable in the context of your company’s own past performances.
  • Never spread your reps too thin, by making sure that you give them clear cut job descriptions. It always helps to keep them focused on what they do, and allows them be more efficient contributors to your sales process.
  • As their mentor, you are looked up to by your reps to fine-tune their performances. To assist you with developing your reps, you can use devices such as: rep’s sales funnel conversion, role playing with the sales manager, reinforcement of qualification standards, and across-the-board training on demos.
  • Make it a point to equip your reps with a personalized daily reminder of what their individual goals should be. This will help in their personal alignment to your company’s mission, and their eventual improvement.
  • The hiring process is the most crucial part of creating a sales team, yet sometimes, employers tend to overlook this part. There are a lot of aspiring reps out there, but not everyone is cut to be one. Create a rubric to guide you as to what to look for in a sales rep, and this will lead you to choosing people who are actually fit for the job.